Nov. 11: A day of reflection
The Nov. 11 ceremonies are now wrapped up for another year, with many legions returning to a lesshectic pace.
The wreaths placed at monuments and cenotaphs here on the South Shore and throughout Canada are, in some cases, the last evidence of ceremonies held.
Over the last number of years, attending the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Bridgewater, there was always plans made to set aside chairs for the Second World War veterans directly in front of the monument.
Thinking back to those days not so long ago, these chairs were filled with veterans of conflicts from many years ago. They would sit with family members bundled up in blankets; keeping a keen eye on what was happening. They would arrive on a special bus that would transport them from the legion in Bridgewater to Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Upon their arrival, they were usually met with applause from those already in place for the ceremony. When you close your eyes, you can see Leon Whynot, Ralph Hebb, Rev. Ron Mosley, Shorty Rhodenizer and Bert
Eagle, to name but a few, still sitting in those VIP chairs with medals proudly displayed on legion uniforms and in the case of Hebb, still wearing his Canadian Armed Forces uniform he wore on his arrival home in 1946.
The ceremony in Bridgewater is not uncommon in other towns and cities across the country. The last First World War veteran, John Babcock, passed away in 2010, ending our direct link to a war that this year marked 100 years. This ended a conflict that we thought would be the war to end all wars. Little did we know that a mere 21 years later, the world would once again be engulfed in a new global conflict, the Second World War. These veterans now are certainly in the twilight of their lives with an average age of 92. Most legions have seen
Second World War veterans slowly pass away.
This year, before the crowds gathered in Bridgewater, I looked across at those empty seats as they seemed to be waiting pa- tiently for those that would come no more. I missed seeing those smiling faces as they joked with one another about events and a time that most of us would not understand. We stood behind those chairs almost treating that area like hallowed ground. The bus arrived with a few older legion members who had opted to drive as opposed to march to Veterans’ Memorial Park, but the crowd gathered hardly noticed their arrival. Following the ceremony, those sitting left with a smattering of applause, boarded the bus and headed on their way.
During the early stages of the ceremony on Nov. 11 in Bridgewater, a young man approached me and, being in uniform, he must have felt I knew the protocol for the day. His question to me was simple: “Are these seats for anyone in particular or can just anybody sit here?” My answer to this young man was simple as I said: “These chairs are for the men and women that we have all gathered here today to honour.” With his answer in hand, he thanked me and walked away.
Lest we forget.
These empty chairs were once full and seated veterans from various conflicts, over the years, as veterans pass, the chairs are still set in front of the Bridgewater monument as a way to remember the fallen.