Remembrance Day a time for Penticton to reflect

South Okanagan residents showing how much they care by overwhelming support in donations for poppies.

War veterans Rosalie Ashdown and Bob Fitzsimonds

War veterans Rosalie Ashdown and Bob Fitzsimonds

The killing of two Canadian soldiers on home soil in late October resulted in an outpouring of public support for current armed forces personnel and veterans as Remembrance Day approaches.

Rosalie Ashdown, 93, a member of the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, experienced just how much people care while collecting donations for poppies earlier this week.

“I think those men who died were really a wake-up call for a lot of people, and it just seemed like everybody wanted to stop and say something and they were more generous than usual. I’m telling you they were just throwing the money in there,” said Ashdown, a long-time member of the Penticton Naval Veterans Association, who served as a wardroom attendant at bases in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in the war years. “It’s too bad, but I think that sort of smartened people up here, they seem to feel that in Canada you’re safe but this shows that’s not the case.”

On Oct. 21, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, a veteran of 28 years, died from injuries he suffered after he and another armed forces member were struck by a vehicle the day before.

Then, just two days later in a another high profile tragedy, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered by a lone gunman while on guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Although the two deaths were not attributed to a specific group, because the victims were targeted as military, the killings were labelled as acts of terrorism. Both men responsible for the deaths were later shot by authorities and died.

Murray Grandy, president of the Penticton branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has also noticed a change in people’s attitudes.

“The poppy drive is going considerably well because of what happened. We’ve heard a lot of stories, some people put in a $100 bill and some 20’s,” he said. “I believe it probably is a loss of innocence for Canada because we’re not as far away from all this stuff as people think.

“I think people should remember even more what the veterans did and are still doing, even more since what happened in Ottawa and Quebec a few weeks ago. We should never forget.”

Cirillo and Vincent will be front and centre at this year’s Nov. 11 Remembrance Day services throughout the country, including Penticton.

“Yes, what happened to those soldiers has made a difference in our lives and we’re acknowledging them in our ceremony,” said Grade 11 student Belle Grant, who is helping organize the Princess Margaret Secondary School service on Nov. 10. “The day (of Cirillo’s death) we were in social studies class and it was just what we were talking about. It just keeps happening and it shouldn’t, we were just so shocked and confused that it could happen.

“It was all over social media and it was very real and it brings it a little closer to home about the world would not be what it is today without the sacrifices our troops and soldiers have made.”

Because hostile deaths of military personnel on Canadian soil are so rare, historians have had a difficult time determining when the last one was, some speculating it may have been as long ago as the 1880s.

The Penticton Upper Deck Vees special needs hockey program is among the local groups and individuals who contributed to the trust fund set up for Cirillo’s young son Marcus. The group donated the $1,100 they received from Erik Laflamme who collected the money from people who toured his haunted house display on Halloween.

Remembrance Day services in Penticton take place starting at 10:10 a.m. with the parade fall-in at the Penticton Curling Club. From there it will march to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre for the inside services starting at 10:30 a.m. with the two minutes of silence starting at 11 a.m.

In Okanagan Falls the Remembrance Day service starts at 10 a.m. at the Okanagan Falls Elementary School on Cedar Street. At 10.45 a.m. Parade to the Royal Canadian Legion cenotaph. Then at 11 a.m. a two minute Wave of Silence, act of remembrance, bugle and flag raising and laying of wreaths.

Summerland Pipe and Drums, Vintage Singers and Cindy Doucette will entertain.