Students pay tribute to First World War vets

Ponoka Composite High School students are among students from 150 schools across the country taking part in a project to remember First World War veterans. An identical vigil will take place simultaneously in the Belgium city of Ypres.

Ponoka Composite High School students are among students from 150 schools across the country taking part in a project to remember First World War veterans. An identical vigil will take place simultaneously in the Belgium city of Ypres.

The vigil started on Thursday and will continue to Remembrance Day, with the names of the 68,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the First World War projected onto a screen for 13 hours a day, with around 9,700 names appearing each day.

Ponoka Composite High School students, along with the Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 66, have set up the vigil at the Ponoka Legion building. The students have included information on local soldiers who were killed, plaques from the school’s Wall of Valour and artwork.

Ponoka Composite Grade 12 student Skyler Vande Bunte is among 25 students who will be taking turns at the vigil, answering people’s questions and ensuring it runs smoothly.

“I think it’s important to bring it back for younger generations to carry on and learn to remember why we’re free and why we’re the country that we are,” Vande Bunte said.

He was able to travel to Vimy Ridge with classmates two years ago and he said it was unbelievable to see that in some cases people even younger than him were brave enough to sign up and go over to the unknown.

Emily Allin, a Grade 12 student at Ponoka Composite, is helping with the project and was also able to travel over to Europe to see some of the war memorials two years ago. The trip, her work on this project and her teacher Ron Labrie have inspired her to pursue teaching social studies as a career.

“Veterans are kind of curious as to why we want to remember them and why our generation is paying so much attention,” Allin said. “I think it’s because with everything that is going on in the world today, we don’t want to see this happen again. It doesn’t need to happen.”

The Canada 1914-1918 Ypres project has been funded by Veterans Affairs Canada and been given support by the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy and the International Churchill Society of Canada.

People can search for their relative’s name, see the vigil online or find out more about the project at www.1914-1918.ca.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com