Oril­lia pays its re­spects

‘It makes what we did years ago worth­while,’ vet­eran says of turnout on Re­mem­brance Day

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - FRONT PAGE - PA­TRICK BALES

Since 1919, the fallen vet­er­ans of for­eign com­bat have been hon­oured on the an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice of the First World War. Sat­ur­day in Oril­lia, hun­dreds were in at­ten­dance to pay trib­ute once more.

Doug Giles, who will turn 94 later in the month, liked what he saw. It was one of the big­ger turnouts he could re­call.

“It makes what we did years ago worth­while,” he said of the crowd hon­our­ing the vet­er­ans. “It brings back a lot of mem­o­ries of the past years. We don’t dwell on these things ev­ery day, but this brings it all back.” Jack Hird agreed.

“It’s an hon­our that they re­spect what we did,” Hird said. “We did the best we could. It makes you feel good. When you get on the bus and some­one says, ‘Hi,’ and, ‘Thanks for do­ing this,’ it makes you feel good.”

The sunny but cool morn­ing marked the 99th an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice, with mem­bers of Oril­lia Branch 34 of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion join­ing ac­tive-ser­vice per­son­nel from the Cana­dian Armed Forces, as well as dig­ni­taries, in pay­ing trib­ute to the men and women who served the na­tion dur­ing the First and Sec­ond World Wars, Korean War and con­tem­po­rary mil­i­tary bat­tles, such as peace­keep­ing mis­sions through­out the Mid­dle East and Africa, and the war in Afghanistan.

Mar­tine Gos­soin was one of those peace­keep­ers. A re­tired RCMP of­fi­cer who also served in Kosovo dur­ing the UN Peace­keep­ing mis­sion of the mid-1990s, she was one of many vet­er­ans who were among the crowd not tak­ing part in the of­fi­cial pro­gram but still wear­ing their medals with pride on top of their civil­ian cloth­ing.

“I think it’s really im­por­tant, es­pe­cially for the kids. I like to see the kids here,” she said. “There were a lot of peo­ple who put their lives at risk to be able to make sure our coun­try, our val­ues keep on go­ing.”

Some of those kids got to share in the day with their vet­eran par­ents. Mas­ter War­rant Of­fi­cer (Ret.) Jeff Mor­ris brought his young chil­dren with him to the cer­e­mony.

“It re­minds them, to me, of the free­doms we’ve gained be­cause of the ser­vice that our vet­er­ans have paid to our coun­try,” he said.

While his kids were among the many just learn­ing of the im­por­tance of the day, many adult chil­dren — and grand­chil­dren — were be­side their vet­eran par­ents, sup­port­ing them as they have on so many Re­mem­brance Days.

The day was as emo­tional for them as it was for any­one. Sa­man­tha Black’s eyes welled up with tears when she con­sid­ered the sig­nif­i­cance of spend­ing the day with her grand­fa­ther, Giles.

“He means the world to me,” she said. “He’s an amaz­ing man. He was very well-re­spected on the ships; he’s very well-re­spected in the com­mu­nity now. You couldn’t have had a bet­ter role model ... It’s an emo­tional day for me.”

Hird’s daugh­ter, An­nette, quipped her sun­glasses were fog­ging up af­ter speak­ing about her hero, who served in Kenya and at the Suez Canal.

“He’s been a good fa­ther, a great role model,” she said. “I just like to come out and hon­our ev­ery­body, thank them for my free­dom.”

Mor­ris served for 25 years in the Cana­dian Armed Forces, with tours in Bos­nia, Afghanistan and Is­rael-Syria. The im­por­tance, to him, of Re­mem­brance Day didn’t al­ter with his ex­pe­ri­ences in the mil­i­tary, nor with his re­tire­ment.

“Be­ing a re­tired mem­ber, I served my coun­try with hon­our and dig­nity,” he said. “It’s an hon­our to pay re­spect to our vet­er­ans and our coun­try as a whole.”


Mem­bers of the Royal Cana­dian Air Cadets 99 Lynx Squadron again took up the post ad­ja­cent to the Oril­lia Sol­diers' Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal Ceno­taph as part of the Re­mem­brance Day ser­vice Sat­ur­day.

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