Hundreds of people gathered at Grand Parade in Halifax on Friday to honour veterans for Remembrance Day. By the end of the ceremony, poppies and wreaths decorated the cenotaph, splashing a bit of colour on an otherwise grey day.
This year, the ceremony paid special attention to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which will be in April 2017.
During the ceremony, veterans reflected on their time in the armed forces.
The Signal asked: what does Remembrance Day mean to veterans?
Sgt. (ret) Roland Lawless, who is “proud as hell” on Remembrance Day is from Amherst, N.S. He served for 20 years in the RCEME (Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). He served in Germany from 1988 to 1992, saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and also served in Yugoslavia from 1994 to 1995.
“First and foremost, I remember all of my uncles that served during the war; they’re all passed now,” he said.
He also remembers “all the guys that I served with that fell. I think of them both in Germany, Yugoslavia, all the conflicts that we’ve been in, (such as) Somalia (and) Rwanda.”
Lawless has been retired for the last 16 years. He is the director of Veterans Outreach for the Society of Atlantic Heroes and spends his time helping veterans in Halifax, and abroad, pushing for better programs and health-care facilities.
He wants to let young soldiers in Afghanistan know “that they’re not forgotten, that there’s people here waiting to catch them when they fall.”
Leslie Newcombe served in the Royal Canadian Regiment for 23 years. He spent six years serving in Germany, where he lost some of his closest friends.
For Newcombe, Remembrance Day “means a chance to remember … some good things, some not so good.”
“Seven of the people were blown up in a mortar accident,” he said. “My best friend, whom I might say came over for Sunday dinner, and on Monday we went to the grenade pit. (There), a young fellow, (who) was trying to supervise, dropped a grenade, and killed both of them.”
Newcombe lives in Dartmouth and is retired, but said he always looked forward to the workday.
“My theory, when I was in the military, was when you get up in the morning (if) you don’t want to go to work, it’s time to find something else.”
Michael Reid, from Alberta, served in the army infantry for 20 years. He was stationed in the Balkans and Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. His last tour of duty was in 2006.
Reid’s brother also served in the military for 32 years, but the two have never been on parade together. This year that changed.
“I made it a point to come out this year and parade with him,” Reid said. “We’ve had many men die in all of our conflicts … so it’s extremely important to come out and remember everyone, whether they are still serving or have passed on.”
One of Reid’s troop members, Pte. Robert Costall, was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. For Reid, the moment of silence is dedicated to remembering his fallen friend, who was 22-years-old and had a one-year-old son at the time.
Remembering fallen friends is emotional for Reid; he teared up a bit while talking about Costall.
“It’s extremely hard to remember (Costall) at this time of year, but all of my friends that have passed – that were killed in action overseas – I remember every one of them.”
Over 50 years ago, in 1960, John Adams served as a peacetime soldier in Europe. Even though he’s 71-years-old and is in poor health, Adams still attends Remembrance Day — something he’s been doing for 32 years.
Adams didn’t fight in a war, but had friends who did and died.
“I’m here today to say thank you to those guys and give myself a little pat on the back too,” he said. “I like to come down here and salute and remember the guys who came before me, so that’s what I’m here for. Just to salute those guys and say, ‘Thanks guys and someday I’ll see ya’.”
Adams said he is a bit discouraged with the world lately and wants to see a change in attitude.
“Nobody opens the door for you anymore, nobody says good morning,” he said. “And I sure wouldn’t want my friends to sacrifice and live in a country where we didn’t respect each other and the veterans.”
He finds that Canadians should be setting an example.
“We, as a Canadian people, have got to show the rest of the world that we can come together as citizens, as the veterans did; veterans all came together.”