Orillia pays its respects
‘It makes what we did years ago worthwhile,’ veteran says of turnout on Remembrance Day
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.