WARMINGTON: Remembrance event moved from driveway to cenotaph

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OAKVILLE — No one forgot Remembrance Day here in 2020, but there were some during the pandemic who tried to block it.

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Those organizing last year’s service — on the Sunday before Remembrance Day — were forced to hold it on the driveway belonging to Gene Reed, past president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 486.

Initially planned to be held at a cenotaph in 2020, that location was abandoned due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We had a neighbour complain we were violating the six-people gathering rule if you can imagine,” said the veteran of the Canadian navy. “We actually had a bylaw officer come to investigate.”

But this year, not only were veterans back at Chris Vokes Memorial Park — located at Bronte and Lakeshore Rds. in Oakville — but joining them was Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand.

The newly-minted minister takes over the military file in a tumultuous time for the Canadian Armed Forces but promised going forward that those who serve will do so in a “safe” environment where their efforts will be fully respected.

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She demonstrated some of that respect by making a point of asking to get a picture taken with the legendary local legion’s organizers, so she would have a keepsake. It was as classy a move.

What a difference a year makes.

Yes, there were masks and social distancing, but it was still a moving, solemn tribute which included the playing of O Canada played and a recitation of In Flanders Field . Pipers played a rendition of the Last Post on their bagpipes.

It was extra special returning to Christopher Vokes Memorial Park this year as it was named in memory of Oakville’s own Maj.-Gen. Christopher Vokes, who led troops — including Reed’s father, Cliff — in Second World War battles.

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When Anand, Oakville’s MP, arrived along with Mayor Rob Burton and Oakville MPP Stephen Crawford, the trio sent out the message the pandemic will no longer disrupt remembrance services.

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“We sure appreciate it,” added Reed. “We hope next year we will be able to have our traditional parade, as well.”

Perhaps the person who called bylaw officers a year ago to interrupt a bunch of veterans honouring the war dead had forgotten what this tradition is all about and the sacrifices people made.

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  3. The Canadian flag is seen at half mast above the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Sept. 13, 2021.

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But it sure didn’t happen that way this year.   This was a very moving ceremony.

Col. Ken Lloyd and fellow legion executives Fred Norman, Mike Vencel and Andrew Barber reminded us that whether the fallen are remembered virtually or at a cenotaph, three words ring true every year.

Lest We Forget.

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