Some things in life are difficult to describe.
For veteran Marie Mathers, her feelings on Remembrance Day fit that bill.
Mathers, along with her late husband, enlisted during the Second World War. She worked at a prison camp in Canada. He landed on Juno Beach.
Seeing the poppies and the wreaths at the Prince Albert Armoury on Remembrance Day brings back a lot of memories and emotions from that period. It’s not always easy to put that into words.
“It’s hard to describe,” Mathers said through a few tears.
In an age of technology and distraction, Mathers says it’s encouraging to see so many people drop what they’re doing and remember Canada’s veterans.
She’s also encouraged by many of the newly arrived immigrants in Prince Albert, who she says have a keen interest in the ceremony.
Every year she sees more and more people coming out to pay their respects and that’s something she’s grateful for.
“To see so many people here today, it’s very emotional,” she said.
Pvt. Grayson Finlayson hasn’t attended as many Remembrance Day ceremonies as Mathers, but he’s still humbled by the response.
Finlayson, who joined the reserves roughly a year ago, says it’s amazing to see the support and the recognition for Canada’s veterans.
“All their families, their friends, (remember) what veterans have been through since the First World War,” he says. “I think that’s great that people still remember that, and that people still find it important.”
Finlayson was one of several reservists from the North Saskatchewan Regiment taking part in the Remembrance Day service. He says it was an honour, but he wasn’t just there as a soldier.
Finlayson’s great-grandfather served in the United States Air Force during the Second World War. Enlisting and attending Saturday’s ceremony was a chance to recognize that contribution.
“I really feel like I’m continuing on with what he believed in and what he represented in the Canadian Army Reserve,” Finlayson says.
Like Finlayson, many who gathered at the armoury were there to remember the sacrifices made by loved ones. As Saturday’s ceremony drew to a close, the stage became crowded with wreaths and tributes from current Prince Albert residents to family members who served in Canada’s Armed Forces.
By his own admission, Father Jim Kaptein is not a soldier, however his family has experienced conflict. During his Remembrance Day Address, Kaptein spoke of his parents, who grew up in the Netherlands during the Second World War. At one point, things became so dire they were forced to eat tulip bulbs after their food supplies ran out.
“I think I speak for all present here when I say, ‘thank you,’” Kaptein said. “Thank you for allowing me to live in a country that is free … where none of us will ever experience the horrors of war.”
However, Kaptein also added that it’s difficult to have veterans without the prospect of war. While thanking veterans for their sacrifice, he looked forward to a day when those sacrifices were no longer necessary.
“Think about what would have to happen for there to be more veterans,” he said. “There would have to be more war. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all veterans, but I pray for the day where there will be no veterans.”
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, there are more than 680,000 veterans in the country, along with nearly 88,000 regular and reserve soldiers in the army.
As of March 2014, an estimated 75,900 Second World War veterans were still alive, along with roughly 9,100 Korean War veterans and 600,300 Canadian Forces veterans.
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