Com­ing to­gether in re­mem­brance

Cer­e­mony hon­oured all those who have served and sac­ri­ficed


From her home in Bar­ton, Digby County, Louise (Doucette) Gille­spie would write let­ters to sol­diers serv­ing over­seas, wish­ing them peace and pro­tec­tion, and let­ting them know how much their ef­forts were ap­pre­ci­ated.

She died in 2013 but one of her let­ters, writ­ten in Sep­tem­ber 2006, was read at this year’s Re­mem­brance Cer­e­mony at Maple Grove Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, which was or­ga­nized by the Maple Grove and Yar­mouth High Memo­rial Club.

“I am sure there are times when it is very dif­fi­cult be­ing where you are,” read an ex­cerpt of her let­ter that was shared dur­ing the cer­e­mony. “I hope all you sol­diers know how very proud and grate­ful we are. You show such courage, ded­i­ca­tion and love for the coun­try. I pray for God’s love for you and that he will sur­round you with his pro­tec­tion.”

Among those seated in the gym­na­sium lis­ten­ing to Louise’s words was her daugh­ter Joy Hat­field of Yar­mouth. Louise’s hus­band and Hat­field’s fa­ther John ‘Jack’ Gille­spie served with dis­tinc­tion in the mil­i­tary dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. It’s one of the rea­sons why her mother felt it im­por­tant to reach out to sol­diers, Hat­field said.

And, of course, there was sac­ri­fice for the fam­ily.

“Mom was preg­nant with their sec­ond child when dad went over­seas,” said Hat­field. “I don’t think he knew be­cause he would never have gone.”

But gone he was – for years.

Later in life, much in part to the work of the Memo­rial Club, he be­came ac­tive with the Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion and spent time speak­ing in schools to stu­dents about his war ex­pe­ri­ences. Hat­field says in the fi­nal days of her fa­ther’s life, stu­dents from through­out Digby County wrote let­ters to him to show their thanks for his ef­forts and his ser­vice.

At the age of 94 he died on Re­mem­brance Day 2012. At the age of 92, Louise died al­most a year later on Oct. 2.

The cou­ple were mar­ried nearly 73 years.

Fam­ily connections to wars and con­flicts were a theme for peo­ple who spoke dur­ing the Nov. 4 cer­e­mony.

“Honour­ing our vet­er­ans is im­por­tant to me and my fam­ily. We also think of my youngest brother who served 19 years in the Royal Cana­dian Navy and con­tin­ues to serve in our Royal Cana­dian Air Force as cap­tain at CFB Tren­ton,” said Maple Grove prin­ci­pal Sean Ken­ney, talk­ing about his brother Jeff. “He has served four tours in Afghanistan, and one in Haiti. Each of those tours pre­sented wor­ries and anx­i­ety for his safe re­turn and those of his troops. Our vet­er­ans’ fam­i­lies ex­pe­ri­enced those same wor­ries and many more.”


four The guest speaker at the cer­e­mony was Chief Petty Of­fi­cer Ben Kiera Dur­rant car­ries a Royal Cana­dian Air­force hat into the cer­e­mony, as stu­dents car­ried in hats and hel­mets de­pict­ing var­i­ous branches of the mil­i­tary. Broome, a Weapons Engi­neer­ing Man­ager with 36 years ser­vice in the Cana­dian mil­i­tary. He is cur­rently at the fleet main­te­nance fa­cil­ity in Cape Scott where he serves as trial co­or­di­na­tor for ships pre­par­ing to de­ploy into op­er­a­tions the­atres. He is also the proud fa­ther of four chil­dren, and, at the time, soon to be nine grand­chil­dren.

“What do you be­lieve brings us to­gether? If I asked each of you to of­fer one word what would it be? Is it pride? Pa­tri­o­tism? Grief? Honour? Sad­ness? Hope? There are so many choices to pick from and none are any more cor­rect than any other. The im­por­tant thing is that you came,” he said about those who gath­ered for this event of re­mem­brance.

“And even though your may not know it, your pres­ence here to­day may just have a saved a life.”

He said there are many peo­ple who never came back from the cold bit­ter­ness of con­flict and oth­ers who were af­forded the bless­ing of com­ing home, yet we of­ten lose them to sui­cide.

“This is be­cause they were only taught how to go and de­fend their county. But sadly there was no train­ing that could pre­pare them to re­turn and in­te­grate into so­ci­ety or, at times, with their own fam­ily and chil­dren,” he said. The ter­rors of con­flict con­tinue for years. For some they never stop.

We call it shell shock, he said. Oper­a­tional stress. Post Trau- matic Stress Dis­or­der. And the trig­gers for each of the tor­mented peo­ple, he said, can be very dif­fer­ent.

“So how can my state­ment of you be­ing able to save a life be true?” he asked.

Broome com­mented on how he had just re­cently at­tended Nova Sco­tia’s first ben­e­fit gala for PTSD. Each speaker who re­called their hard­ship of war also shared a si­m­il­iar­ity in their words – how the gen­tle­ness of words can also go a long way.

“Such as, ‘Thank you.’ ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Would you like to share a thought?’ ‘Can I get you a cof­fee?’ Th­ese things make a world of dif­fer­ence for their sor­row and give them the strength to face yet an­other day,” Broome said. “The mere pres­ence of you be­ing there for some­one, and your ea­ger­ness to lis­ten and want to un­der­stand can make peo­ple feel cared for. This is what makes a dif­fer­ence.”

He said we never truly know the emo­tional strug­gle some­one is deal­ing with.

“You kind­ness might be the day’s cure for some­one to make it through the tur­moil,” he said.

Mean­while the Re­mem­brance cer­e­mony, as it al­ways does, ended in mu­sic and dance. As Brit­thany Poth­ier ser­e­naded Sec­ond World War vet­eran Jim McRae, who, in­ci­den­tally, turns 100 years old this month, mem­bers of the Memo­rial Club danced with the in­vited guests.

Cowen Ken­ney and other Memo­rial Club mem­bers held Cana­dian flags dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

There were lots of smiles as the cer­e­mony ended with mu­sic and danc­ing.

The cer­e­mony’s guest speaker was Chief Petty Of­fi­cer Ben Broome, a Weapons Engi­neer­ing Man­ager with 36 years ser­vice in the Cana­dian mil­i­tary.

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