Hundreds of people crowded into the Red Deer Arena for Remembrance Day services on Wednesday while scores more gathered by the cenotaph on Ross Street.
Retired colonel Andrew Moffat, a veteran of the Korean War and career soldier for 32 years, said between 60 and 70 people, including about a dozen veterans, joined the downtown service.
In an unexpected move, everyone at the outdoor service formed a row afterward and began exchanging handshakes, said Moffat, who was overwhelmed to see so many people attend.
The small crowd included a group of 15 to 20 high school students who provided a bugler to play The Last Post and Revielle.
The service was held at the cenotaph for the first time in recent memory because the members of Korean Veterans Association of Red Deer believe that the cenotaph is the most important symbol for veterans in Red Deer.
The group has been lobbying the city to move the statue of the unknown soldier, erected after the First World War, to City Hall park, said Andrews.
Such a move would make the statue much more accessible to people at all times, Moffat said after the service.
Ceremony at the Red Deer Arena
While those who oppose the move have argued that the arena is more comfortable, Moffat counters that the national service on Parliament Hill is held outdoors, at a venue that was not designed for the number of people who attend.
The KVA’s position concerning the cenotaph has been supported by the local branch of the Royal Canadian, but turned down by the City, he said.
City planners have recently stated that cenotaph’s placement, looking into the railway station fom which so many soldiers shipped out, has historic value. Plans are now underway to build a park adjacent to the cenotaph once construction is finished on the neighbouring office tower.
A few blocks away, parking lots were filled and seats at the Red Deer Arena were overflowing by 10 a.m. as people gathered for the 11 a.m. service.
Among those seated at ice level was Métis elder “Miss Cora” Fedyk, who laid a wreath on behalf of Métis veterans.
Fedyk’s father, Reuben Blondeau, was a sniper in the First World War. Her first husband, Ernie Boyer and all three of her brothers, Eddie, Walter and Louis volunteered for the Second World War. Of her three brothers boys, only Eddie and Walter came home.
Louis was the mischievious one, full of fun and always getting into some sort of trouble, she said.
Often as not, their dad would drop Louis off at school, only to get a call later that he hadn’t showed up for class. He would simply slip away, unnoticed.
Since the war, Fedyk, 79, has been a stalwart supporter of the Royal Canadian Legion, serving a term as president of the Claresholm Legion in the mid-70s before moving with her second husband to Red Deer.
She was pleased to learn that, this year, a small group of veterans would travel to Juno Beach Centre in France to take part in a Remembrance Day service and dedicate a memorial honouring the contributions of Métis people to Canada’s war effort.
Fedyk said she has noticed a growing number of people attending services in recent years, with the only significant change being that there are fewer and fewer veterans.
As part of this year’s service, Rev. Don Lewis read the names of 34 veterans who have died in the past year.
Throughout the ceremony, a slideshow played portrails of the new generation of soldiers who have been deployed to Afghanistan along with scenes of their units at work.