Remembrance Day 2020 will be remembered.
While it was not the grand tribute that many observers have become accustomed to over the years, with the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, events were small, intimate and impactful as ever Wednesday.
At the Red Deer Cenotaph, with socially distanced spectators and masks worn throughout, a small crowd gathered at a safe distance to witness the ceremony.
“Today and every day we honour the veterans. Whether active duty, discharged or retired or reserve. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two. This was a genuine world war, involving participants from around the world. For Canadian participants, the war started in the fall of 1939,” said Amanda Kerik, who helped organize the event on behalf of Red Deer’s Korean Veterans.
“To all veterans, past and present, home or abroad, we remember and we are thankful. Thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice for our freedom.”
After the ceremonial laying of the wreaths, veteran Don Holloway, Red Deer’s citizen of the year for 2020, read In Flanders Fields.
Holloway is believed to be one of the city’s last living veterans of the Korean War.
He was born in Port Blandford, N.L., and enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1951. He served as a combat engineer for a year during the Korean War, and in 1977, he and his family settled in Penhold.
The short event Wednesday came to a close with citizens laying their poppies at the base of the cenotaph.
Earlier in the morning, the Red Deer Legion hosted a small wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph, with several RCMP members, MP Earl Dreeshen and a few local MLAs.
Red Deer Legion president Bev Hanes, one of those in attendance, said even in these difficult times, it’s important we find ways and take time to remember those who fought for freedom.
“No matter what, you still have to do it. Remembrance is very important. If we don’t remember things, especially these men and women who served our country, then you don’t really respect much in society,” Hanes said.
Small ceremonies were held across the region, with some UN and former NATO soldiers also honouring members at the Alto Reste Cemetery in Red Deer.
Still, many ceremonies in central Alberta went virtual, were much smaller than usual, or cancelled entirely, because of COVID-19.
With the pandemic hitting record highs across the province in recent weeks, Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement about Remembrance Day that Albertans are facing a challenge similar to the Spanish flu, which arrived just as the First World War came to an end.
“Just as the Great War was ending, a deadly influenza struck the war-weary world. Just over a century later, we find ourselves facing the COVID-19 crisis, an echo of that early pandemic,” he said.
“We recognize, throughout history, that suffering and loss are universally part of human life. But so too are compassion, hope, faith and perseverance.
“As Albertans and Canadians, we can seek the light of better days through our time-honoured defence of freedom, democracy, human dignity and the rule of law.”