Today I was so honored to receive one of 68 Minister of Veterans Affairs commendations. What started as sharing Grandpa’s story of serving in WWI (a Lewis machine gunner who survived Passchendaele and Mons) turned into many wonderful memories with Veterans and colleagues and students, as we learned more together over the years.
And it was definitely done together. The ten years of Legion Teas will always hold a special place in my heart, especially the one with Danny Artnsen’s poetry and the last one with Bob Mason’s writing. Having a new cast of students re-do the performance for Bob in his hometown of Perdue last year will be something I will never forget. Val and I taught WWI and WWII classics to grade 4 students for well over a decade, and it was always heartwarming to see them remember the lyrics and sing along even when they were in high school. Who couldn’t love K-K-Katy and Tipperary! An amazing group of colleagues puts together a phenomenal service each year; Barb, Sandra, Pat, Miranda, Cheryl. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. As we go virtual with it this week, I’ll really miss visiting with the Color Party and having tea in the library afterward! Ken at the RM Review has published our student writing each November for so long, I’ve lost count. This year was the first that we weren’t deadline ready - darn COVID - but it’ll be back.
As a teacher, we are fortunate there are so many resources out there to support bringing Remembrance to students: Veterans Affairs bookmarks, posters, and publications at all grade levels; the Legion poem, essay, and poster contests; and Discovery boxes from the Canadian War Museum that lets students touch and wear artifacts and uniforms. Having the opportunity to stand on Juno Beach and to see the gravesite of my Great-Uncle Chester Cunningham who is buried with 2000 other Canadians at Villiers Station Cemetery just outside of Vimy, was a life-changer. If we ever get to travel again, the EF student tour of Canada and the World Wars is something to put on your list.
I was really humbled today, seeing the amazing work of just six of the other recipients. As Minister MacAulay said (paraphrasing here, it went by really fast lol) that these things aren’t done for recognition, but by recognizing individuals, it will inspire more people to do something as well. That is so true. Let us all do whatever we can, in whatever way we are able, to keep Remembrance alive. I am continually learning myself, especially in the important roles that Indigenous soldiers played and the discrimination they faced upon return. For me, the work we do with students is vital, because what we understand and learn as children, we will remember as adults. And in the tumultuous world we live in, the importance of understanding and remembering can’t be overstated.
One last plug: both levels of government announced funding for struggling Veterans groups today, but if you are looking for a way to help on a personal level, the Legion website now sells a variety of items from bunnyhugs to beautiful beaded poppies, or you can make a donation through mypoppy.ca and make a virtual poppy in remembrance of someone.
Or, just take those two minutes at 11am tomorrow to say a silent thank you for the Canadians who have served, and who continue to serve, to preserve the many freedoms we enjoy.
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