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This article was published 11/11/2021 (198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the Royal Canadian Legion Elmwood Branch #9, the bustling crowd inside belied the blowing snow and empty streets outside.
More than 100 people from all walks of life came together Remembrance Day to honour Canada’s veterans and those serving today. It was a pared-down service, both because of the pandemic and the sudden storm that blanketed Winnipeg the night before and continued into the day.
Those who made the journey took a moment of silence, heard Amazing Grace and In Flanders Fields, and watched as wreaths were laid by veterans and in memory of loved ones who had died.
It was one of the few in-person ceremonies held this year, as many opted to hold a virtual service for the second year in a row. Other ceremonies, like that being held simultaneously at Transcona Branch #7, were open only to invited guests.
Premier Heather Stefanson encouraged Manitobans to hold a moment of silence and remember Canada’s veterans in a statement.
"COVID-19 remains the most significant challenge of our time, and while many Manitobans have given up some of their freedoms in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from the impacts of the pandemic, nothing compares to the bravery and ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of men and women in uniform in the pursuit for peace and defence of democracy," she said.
Among those laying wreaths at Elmwood Branch #9 was former governor general Edward Schreyer, who spoke of attending similar services as a child in Beausejour, Man., decades ago.
"The desire and wish to participate in occasions such as this is as great and strong today as ever, and there is a very fundamental reason," he said.
"It is good. It is soul-satisfying in a way, that we should take a day apart, and other hours and days as well, to dedicate and re-dedicate ourselves to the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their very life on behalf of others, and on behalf of causes they could not have understood in total dimension."
That sense of comfort was apparent to veteran Kerry Ten Eyck, who was among the crowd Thursday. He comes from a family of service – his older twin brothers were in the navy and the air force, and he has lineage that served in the army.
Ten Eyck, 62, joined the army in 1980 and served as a medic and physician’s assistant all over Canada and across the world until he retired in 2010. He currently works in orthopedics at Concordia Hospital.
Thursday afternoon, he, his wife and his twin seven-year-old sons planned to visit the Brookside Cemetery and leave poppies at the graves of veterans. It’s a tradition he’s tried to keep through the pandemic and hopes to pass on to his children.
Sitting in today’s service, he said, he found himself worried for the current state of the world amongst the speeches calling for peace
"I just hope for a better world – it’s not looking pretty outside these days, there’s a lot of conflict and radicalism all over the world, even in North America. I’m just hoping that doesn’t spread and get out of hand," he said.
He thought of his loved ones, too – not just his family, but friends in the service who didn’t make it home.
"I’ve had friends and colleagues who never made it back from Afghanistan," he said. "I was proud to do what I did, and I’d do it all over again. I was sad hearing their names."
According to the Veterans Affairs department, more than 2.3 million Canadians have served in the military and more than 118,000 have died during service
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.