Bundled up against the chilly November winds and tucked in the secure embrace of her mother’s arms, Kassandra Koning smiles at the people marching past her.
At 18 months of age, the little girl doesn’t yet understand the significance of the 11th day of this month, nor is she aware just how much her freedom and future are the result of what these men and women and others have sacrificed, but one day she will.
That’s a promise her mother Susan Tait intends to keep.
“She may be too young to know right now but I still think it’s important to watch the parade and remember those who fought for our freedom, so she grows up knowing somebody looked after our country for her,” said Tait prior to the start of Sunday’s Remembrance Day services at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. “When she grows up I want her to know it’s what these people did that lets her be whoever she wants to be.”
The mother already shows Kassandra pictures of her grandparents from both sides of the family who fought in past wars.
“I think that hits home, makes it more real,” said Tait. “When she gets older she may want to enlist and I would encourage her to do that because now (with current conflicts) this is not just something that happened a long time ago, it is still going on today.”
Master Cpl. Glenn Duffield of Penticton, a member of the Kelowna-based B.C. Dragoons, is one of those modern-day vets.
Between 2009 and 2010 he did an eight-month deployment with Lord Strathcona’s Royal Canadian B squadron, an armoured tank regiment at Forward Observation Base Ma’Sum Ghar, just southwest of Kandahar.
Working “outside the wire” in some of the most dangerous conditions, particularly for improvised explosive devices, his life was frequently in danger and he had a couple of near misses.
“My experience? It was long, it was tough,” he said after Sunday’s service. “We came under fire and I saw everything there is to see, but it was probably one of the best things I ever did, the friendships I made there will last forever and I’m very proud of everybody I served with.”
However, when asked about the toll it took on him personally, he quietly replied: “No comment, no comment.”
The one positive aspect he pulled from the Afghani conflict was the rejuvenation of the Canadian Armed Forces. Particularly with the Dragoons regiment, which he described as thriving, as the pride in the country’s military has once again been restored.
But even that has a down side.
“I guess when we start losing people and in a war context, the patriotism comes out,” said Duffield.
Throughout the years in the major conflicts, including Afghanistan, over 100,000 Canadians have died, nearly 150 were soldiers who called Penticton and area home.
At Sunday’s service each of the names — as they are every year — were read aloud.
Padre John Briscall told Sunday’s packed auditorium: “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God and their bodies in peace but their names live forever more.”
He also had a suggestion for those who have the freedoms that were willingly paid for at the ultimate cost.
“Take time sometime this week, indeed take time throughout the year to let the vets know how much you appreciate what they have done,” he said, adding the 1940 quote from Winston Churchill: “‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
“Freedom is not free — lest we forget.”