The sunny autumn morning of Wednesday, November 11 saw Abbotsford’s Thunderbird Memorial Square packed from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m for the city’s annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. The Civic Plaza was filled with over 3,000 people paying their respects to the many soldiers who have given their lives in war — so many that they stretched up the hill, into the parking lot, and overflowed past the Abbotsford Public Library.
As cadets from 861 Silverfox Squadron, the local branch of the Air Cadet League of Canada, stood at ease, the ceremony proceeded with singing by the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir, a Punjabi prayer of peace by the Khalsa Diwan Society Sikh Temple, a fired salute, and a bagpipes-and-horn combination. The ceremony was led by Reverend Art Turnbull, chaplain of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Soldiers from Abbotsford who lost their lives in war have their names inscribed on the cenotaph that stands in Thunderbird Memorial Square. Like every year, their names were called out by a young sergeant from the 861 Silverfox Squadron who stepped up to the mic and recited them from the honour roll. The wave of names flowed continually, only pausing when it was time to announce the end of one roll call and the beginning of another. The list of men from one war was replaced with the next generation of young men who fought in the next conflict, from the Great War, the Second World War, and even the conflict in Afghanistan. Between each list, the young sergeant paused, and a veteran would state in an almost soothing tone, “They [the soldiers] do not answer, sir.”
Following the end of the honour-roll, the veteran recited In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, the poem that has become synonymous with Remembrance Day.
After this, it was time for wreaths to be laid at the cenotaph to honour all the names inscribed upon it, as well as the host of others who had, and have, seen their lives impacted by war. The long list of wreath-layers included representatives from UFV, the City of Abbotsford, the Red Cross, the RCMP, and the Sumas First Nation. Each approached the cenotaph, escorted by members of the 861 Silverfox Squadron, and added a wreath to the growing pile.
Finally the ceremony was brought to a close, and the Silverfox Squadron paraded away with their buttons gleaming in the sun. The ceremony’s closing statements included the poem Prayer For Peace by LaoTse, which states, “If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.”