Legion stands first vigil shift
Sixty-four-hour event continues until start of Remembrance Day ceremony at cenotaph
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. email@example.com twitter.com/@Chathamnews
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.