Smithville Christian High School's Remembrance Day chapel was a reminder that we have much for which we are thankful. We are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy — both freedom in our country and freedom in Christ.
Selected students took turns telling the stories of soldiers who lost their lives as they served our country and fought for freedom.
Owen Ricker told the story of Arthur-Joseph Lapointe from the village of Rivière Blanche in the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec. Lapointe joined the Quebec 22nd Regiment (the VanDoos) in France during the First World War and fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. Lapointe described the aftermath: “Everywhere was an air of desolation. Not a house was to be seen . . . only the bare, terribly scarred plain, over which a cataclysm seemed to have passed. In a flooded trench, corpses of Germans, their stomachs grotesquely bloated, floated in slushy water. Bodies buried in the mud with only an arm or a leg showing above the surface; macabre faces appeared, blackened by their long stay on the ground. Everywhere I looked, all I could see was corpses covered in a shroud of mud."
Adam Riddell told the story of Edward LaCombe, who served in World War Two with the Royal Regiment of Canada. LaCombe participated in the August 1942 raid on Dieppe, where he was wounded and captured. He made several unsuccessful escape attempts and was imprisoned for almost three years. While imprisoned he was in chains, forced to work in a stone quarry, a wood factory and a salt mine. He was liberated by American soldiers in April 1945.
Sam Hong told the story of the 516 Canadians who died in various battles during the Korean War, many of them at Hill 355, north of Seoul. Canada’s first battle at this location was on November 22, 1951, where Canadian soldiers encountered an intense bombardment from the Chinese. It was desperate fighting in the snow, cold and mud, but they held their ground until the Americans retook Hill 355 for good on November 25.
Caleb Boerefyn told the story of Captain Nichola Goddard the first Canadian female soldier killed in combat. She was killed on May 17, 2006, during a firefight in Afghanistan. It was part of a two-day operation to secure Kandahar's outskirts after a rumor of Taliban preparations to launch an assault on the city. As troops were moving into a mosque to capture 15 alleged Taliban members, several dozen hidden militants began firing from neighbouring houses. As a crew commander, Goddard was standing half-exposed in her light armoured vehicle, which was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades early in the battle.
Kaitlin Lunshof told the story of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who served this nation on bases and ships over a 28-year career. He had volunteered to help another officer with some administrative tasks when he was deliberately run down in a parking lot in St Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec on October 20, 2014.
Shannon Mellema told the story of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the 24-year-old Canadian soldier who was gunned down October 22, 2014 while performing ceremonial guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. He was a Class-A reservist of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada from Hamilton. He, along with fellow reservist, Branden Stevenson, were chosen for the honour of guarding the War Memorial because they were among the regiment’s top soldiers.
Mr. Neale Robb then quoted Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who delivered the eulogy at Cirillo's funeral, and spoke about the war memorial which Cirillo had been guarding.
"These monuments remind us that freedom is never free. It has been earned by the soldier and then donated to us all,” Harper said.
As Canadians, the sacrifices made by generations of soldiers mean we enjoy freedom of conscience and of religion, Robb said. "We enjoy freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication. We have freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association."
But we also have the possibility of ultimate freedom, earned for us by another person who gave his life to earn it, Robb said. Quoting Hebrews 2:14-16, Robb said the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ mean we can be free from worry and have peace.
"Christ gives freedom from hatred so we can love, he grants freedom to forgive, he gives freedom of purity so that our lives are no longer plagued by the shame of sin and impurity," Robb said. He also frees us from the fear of death, "the greatest fear we have."
Robb said Canadian MPs gave sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers a standing ovation when he returned to the House of Commons the day after Cirillo was killed, because Vickers had risked his own life to take down the gunman who was threatening Parliament.
"But Jesus has taken out the gunman who threatens us — the devil," Robb said. "Because of what Christ has done, when we put our faith in him we don’t need to be afraid of death – nor do we need to fear anything else in life.
"Jesus has earned our freedom and donated it to us."
After the chapel, Grade 10 Civics students went to the Legion where they participated in Remembrance Day observances there, including the laying of a school wreath.
Meanwhile at school, at 11 a.m., Chantelle Minor read a poem over the public address system that she had written a number of years ago for Remembrance Day. The entire school then observed two minutes of silence.
Then John Boerefyn played The Last Post on his trumpet.
We also have this splendid flag hanging in the lounge, thanks to Mr. Antonides who made it with his students at a former school.
Here is Chantelle's poem:
Be still and hear the lonely cry
Of those who fought this war
Bow your head and say a prayer
For peace forevermore.
Remember those who died so brave
And all those that survived.
They sacrificed their very souls
For our freedom and our lives.