Published on November 12, 2011
Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie shakes hands with Royal Navy veteran Anthony Reardon Friday following Remembrance Day services at the National War Memorial in St. John’s. Reardon enlisted at 18 years of age in 1939 and saw action in numerous naval engagements. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Published on November 12, 2011
Cpl. Michael Boland stands sentry duty Friday at the National War Memorial in St. John’s. Boland is a technician in the Signals Branch at Canadian Forces Station St. John’s. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
During the Remembrance Day ceremonies in St. John’s Friday, various groups were invited to lay their wreaths at the National War Memorial.
A lone red rose fell from one of the colourful circular flower arrangements. A veteran, aged and gray who was sitting nearby with his comrades, noticed the flower and, presumably not wanting to see it trampled, got up to retrieve it.
With some difficulty, he bent to pick up it up. Others made motions to help him, but he retrieved it on his own before they’d taken more than a step.
Having reached his prize, the vet straightened and started toward the wreaths to rejoin the rose with the others.
But something made him stop in his tracks.
Whatever was going through his mind seemed to freeze the man in place, and he stood there for a few heartbeats, halfway between the memorial and his chair.
Suddenly, seemingly making up his mind about something, he turned on his heel, rose clasped in his hand.
But he walked right past his chair, which was in the front row of the 30 or so veterans sitting there, and went to the second row to a lady.
With a wide grin he handed her the scarlet flower. They exchanged a few words, and she smiled at receiving the gift.
After their exchange the man went to turn back to his chair, but his companion stopped him.
He got a kiss for his trouble.
Finally turning back to his seat he sat down, his smile even wider than it had been.
Little scenes like this one seemed to be taking place all over the memorial grounds Friday as St. John’s celebrated Remembrance Day.
Everywhere you looked people were interacting, sharing stories.
They seemed to be either caught up in the moment or deeply lost in thought.
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Either way, they’d all come for their own reasons and all remembered.
There were thousands of people at the National War Memorial, many of them families with children, crowded into the downtown core of the city to observe the laying of the wreaths, the moment of silence and the playing of the Lament and Reveille.
The crowd watched little scenes like the giving of a rose. But they also watched as young Brook Ingram, daughter of Sgt. Vaughn Ingram — killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 3, 2006 — tearfully laid a wreath in her father’s honour.
They watched the silver cross representatives Natasha Lucas — wife of Sgt. Donald Lucas killed in action in Afghanistan on April 8, 2007 — and her children as they laid a wreath.
All this took place on a beautiful day with a warm sun shining down, broken only by the chilly breeze that stirred up occasionally.
Many of the vets remarked it was the nicest Remembrance Day in terms of weather any of them had seen in many years.
The only speaker during the day’s ceremony was Rev. Ian Wishart, command padre, who addressed the crowd with a prayer of hope.
“Oh God, many of your people have suffered from the scourge of war,” Wishart said.
“Family who have lost someone dear, innocent victims of violent destruction, men and women and children whose lives have been torn asunder and those for whom no healing has come,” he said.
“Comfort, we pray, the victims of war and sustain with them all who cry for justice for healing for peace for comfort.”