Under grey skies Monday, more than 100 children from Richard McBride Elementary school in New Westminster clutched their bright red poppies. Then they carefully selected a headstone at the Fraser Cemetery, before reading the name of the fallen soldier aloud.
“Bruce Templeton, died 1948… E.M. Hagenson 3 Dec. 1948… William W Dublin private. 1886 to 1937… Lest we forget,” read the children.
Video: No Stone Left Alone Commemorates Remembrance Day and Armistice
A moment of reflection followed, and the poppy was laid to rest on the stone. It is all part of a growing national program called No Stone Left Alone, which brings veterans and children together to pay tribute to soldiers of the past.
“The simple act of placing a poppy on the headstone has a profound impact. It encourages leadership, gratitude and respect through a simple act of remembering,” honorary Col. Karen Baker-MacGrotty of the Royal Westminster regiment said.
A group of students read aloud a Commitment to Remember to the group of parents, teachers and military members:
The sight of dozens of Grade 3 to 5 children scattered among the aging stones, was moving for Baker-MacGrotty who also attended Richard McBride elementary as a child.
She hopes more schools will embrace the No Stone Left Alone program. In 2017, more than 8,000 students across the country visited 101 cemeteries to honour 50,000 veterans.
It will raise your awareness of the sacrifices our Canadian military have made over time and the sacrifices they continue to make today. We must never forget, Baker-MacGrotty said.
Hundreds of students gathered at Burnsland Cemetery on Monday morning to take part in a ceremony honouring those who served Canada.
Calgarys No Stone Left Alone event is in its fifth year and involves the placement of a poppy on each of the military headstones.
We bring the students in from the Calgary Catholic School Board, bring them into the cenotaph, and its a huge impact to see the headstones, read the names, see the ages of the fallen, explained Debbie Persinger, manager of No Stone Left Alone – Calgary. Were trying to educate the next generation on the importance of remembering, of remembrance.
Persinger says 4,550 headstones in Calgary received a poppy on Monday including 174 markers in Union Cemetery of soldiers who fell in the First World War.
In addition to the signs of respect placed on the gravesites, the students heard firsthand accounts from veterans of their time in service.
Its just a wonderful opportunity to tell some stories and offer some meaning to them, hopefully, for what serving our nation is all about, said Jim Donihee, who served in several capacities during his 28 year military career. It is a bit of a challenge to say what are the kinds of things that are going to be relevant to them. I had the privilege to serve as a single-seat fighter pilot so I think flying stories are pretty cool for kids.
Its helping them to understand that the military heritage, as little known as it is in Canada, is a tremendous part of our heritage in terms of what has played out, what has formed our nation. Canadians have always fared very well – strong character, strong backs, great leaders, very well respected – and its an important part of our history.
Faith Onanuga, a 12-year-old who is in the seventh grade, said the message of the event resonated with him. We have to recognize (the soldiers) and what they did, said Onanuga. To just thank them for doing justice for our country.
John Melbourne served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in peacekeeping operations and says its vital that younger generations understand the sacrifices of those who served.
One of the big gripes Ive had over the years is the teaching of Canadian history in our schools, explained Melbourne. One of the major parts of Canadian history is the military and a lot of young people dont understand exactly what their predecessors had done over the years in the various conflicts, wars, and peacekeeping operations weve gone into.
Something like this particular event gives them a better appreciation of exactly what we, as the older people, have been trying to portray over the years.
No Stone Left Alone events were held in 100 cemeteries across Canada on Monday and involved upwards of 8,000 students.
A poppy is placed on a gravestone marker in Burnsland Cemetery on November 5, 2018 as part of the No Stone Left Alone event
Students share a moment of reflection at a military gravesite at Burnsland Cemetery during No Stone Left Alone
Calgarians will have their say on whether or not they want the city to host another Olympic games and people can start casting their ballots on the plebiscite at advance polling stations on Tuesday and Wednesday.