Le­gion stands first vigil shift

Sixty-four-hour event con­tin­ues un­til start of Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony at ceno­taph

The Chatham Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - ELL­WOOD SHREVE

For the sec­ond year, com­mu­nity mem­bers are tak­ing shifts to stand vigil at the ceno­taph in down­town Chatham as a trib­ute to vet­er­ans who served their coun­try.

Mem­bers of Le­gion Branch 642 Chatham took the first shift that be­gan at 6 p.m. Thurs­day and will con­tinue night and day un­til the Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony be­gins at the ceno­taph at 11 a.m. Sun­day.

An­thony Walsh, 66, who was a sergeant with Cana­dian peace­keep­ers, is tak­ing part for the sec­ond year.

“It is a recog­ni­tion of the men and women of the Cana­dian armed ser­vices that gave ev­ery­thing they had so that we can have the coun­try that we have to­day,” he said of want­ing to take part again.

“It’s a small price to pay com­ing out for two hours to draw at­ten­tion to that sac­ri­fice, that ser­vice,” he added. “I’m hum­bled and hon­oured to be able to do that.”

Brian Mills, 70, who served in the mili­tia, was ill last year when the first vigil was held. He didn’t want to miss it this year, so he vol­un­teered for the first shift.

“It’s re­spect for our vet­er­ans,” Mills said.

Hav­ing been as­so­ci­ated with the le­gion for nearly 30 years, in­clud­ing serv­ing in the colour guard and colour party, Mills said, “I’ll con­tinue to do it as long as I can.”

Len May­nard, 58, who served in the in­fantry with the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment, did two shifts dur­ing last year’s vigil.

The cur­rent sergeant-at-arms with Branch 642 is pleased to see the vigil is hap­pen­ing again and to be able to do his part to hon­our those who gave their lives in wars so oth­ers could have free­dom.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is the best thing to stop this from ev­ery hap­pen­ing again,” May­nard said.

He said to the lo­cal vet­er­ans who served in the mil­i­tary, the ceno­taph is like “sa­cred ground to us.”

“It means the world to an old vet” to see the com­mu­nity rally for this cause, he said.

This year’s event has been scaled back to 64 hours from the 150hour vigil held last year to mark Canada’s 150th an­niver­sary as a na­tion. This year’s vigil pays trib­ute to the 100th year since the end of the First World War. Once again, Christ Church is team­ing up with Branch 642 to or­ga­nize the vigil. All the time slots are filled.

Rev. John Maroney of the lo­cal Angli­can church said fill­ing the time slots started off slowly.

“Then all of a sud­den peo­ple just started call­ing the of­fice like crazy,” he said. “I think they re­al­ized (peo­ple) want to par­tic­i­pate and not just read about it, but ac­tu­ally do some­thing about it, some­thing in­ter­ac­tive like this.”

Maroney said as long as the in­ter­est is there, Christ Church will be part of the event, which in­cludes keep­ing the church open through­out the vigil to pro­vide food and warmth to vol­un­teers.

“This is Chatham’s way of . . . retelling the story be­cause nar­ra­tives fade, pho­to­graphs fade, this is our way of say­ing ‘Lest we for­get,’ ” Maroney said.

Irene Wil­liams, Le­gion Zone A3 com­man­der, said the vigil is a good way to make peo­ple aware of what’s go­ing on and “keep them in­ter­ested in what ex­actly the vet­er­ans did for us.”

Linda Heyn­inck, pres­i­dent of Branch 642, said with the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice and the 65th an­niver­sary of the Korean War’s end, it’s an im­por­tant year for peo­ple to take part in this year’s Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies.

She hopes with Re­mem­brance Day fall­ing on a Sun­day, a lot of peo­ple will come out to lo­cal cer­e­monies.

There is an­other event Sun­day re­mem­ber­ing those who made the supreme sac­ri­fice.

Wil­liams said at 5:10 p.m. on Re­mem­brance Day, ev­ery­one in On­tario with a bell is en­cour­aged to ring it 100 times as part of a “bells of peace” trib­ute to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War. eshreve@post­media.com twit­ter.com/@Chatham­news

ELL­WOOD SHREVE/THE DAILY NEWS

Chatham Royal Cana­dian Le­gion Branch 642 mem­bers Brian Mills, left, Len May­nard, cen­ter, and An­thony Walsh, take part in the be­gin­ning of a 64-hour-long vigil at the ceno­taph in down­town Chatham on Thurs­day.

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