This holiday season, many military families will be remembering a military loved-one they’ve lost. Other families will be separated from a loved-one due to deployments.
According to the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) website, there are close to 2,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen currently overseas on various deployments.
Additionally, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Charlottetown and Chicoutimi are away from home over Christmas and New Year’s.
To honour and remember all the military members away from their families this holiday season, one Ontario school is taking action to bring awareness to its students.
The Longue Sault Public School, led by their principle Kieran Kennedy, setup a Remember Everyone Deployed (RED) at Christmas and Fallen Soldier table at the school on Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, just before the Christmas break.
“Mr. Kennedy’s acts of Remembrance are rare not only as an educator in today’s day and age but also that of a human being. He reminds me of a gentleman I met three and a half years ago in a little town just like Long Sault. That man selflessly volunteered 10,000 hours to paint the faces of the 158 Fallen Soldiers who gave their today’s for our tomorrows,” said Kerri Tadeu, co-founder of SerViCe and SacriFice.
Most significantly, the display featured the Poppy Memorial.
On November 11, 2011, the last Canadian Remembrance Day Ceremony was held at Kandahar Air Field (KAF) in Afghanistan. Peter MacKay, former minister of national defence and General Jonathan Vance, were present for this historic event.
MacKay read the names of the fallen and Gen. Vance placed a poppy on each of the designated plaques. After the ceremony, Gen Vance personally removed each poppy from the monument and placed them in the care of WO Renay Groves.
Alongside a dedicated team, Groves, who was tasked with bringing the poppies home, created the Poppy Memorial.
The memorial is a piece of art made of three distinct pieces. The base is a road wheel from a battle-damaged Leopard tank, the intermediate section is made of engine vents and displays the engraved names of all soldiers who fell, and the top is a maple leaf shaped spire. The final addition to the memorial, bronzed poppies representing each fallen soldier.
During Longue Sault Public School’s assembly on both Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 included a special presentation from WO Groves about the Poppy Memorial to bring the significance of the RED and Fallen Soldier table to life for students.
The assembly also included a moment of silence, followed by the lighting of a single candle on the table, accompanied by six decorative trees lit with Christmas lights illuminating the gym.
The students then placed mintier wreaths as a thank you for service on the table.
The table also included a display of Christmas dishes and cutlery set for one, an old army helmet, a glass that says “shine on,” all encircling the Portraits of Honour, a painting by Dave Sopha of all 158 fallen soldiers of the Afghanistan War.
The students of Longue Sault Public School also wrote 150 “We Remember Your Service Christmas” thank you cards that were distributed to veterans across the country for Christmas.
“Mr. Kennedy and Dave Sopha’s deep devotion to Remembering is remarkably outstanding and are of the highest standards of “Service before Self.” They succeed in remembering where others are failing, secondary to their unflinching commitment and dedication to educating our future generation about SerViCe and SacriFice. Honour, integrity, compassion, and respect are written all over them both, and it is always a privilege to share the same space with them especially when we are honouring the Veterans who moulded Canada into what it is today, a free Nation,” said MCpl. (ret’d) Collin Fitzgerald, co-founder of SerViCe and SacriFice.
This holiday season CAF personnel are deployed on the following operations: Operation KOBOLD in Kosovo; Operation REASSURANCE in central and eastern Europe; Operation SNOWGOOSE in Cyprus; Operation UNIFER in Ukraine; Operation CROCODILE in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Operation SOPRANO In the Republic of South Sudan; Operation ARTEMIS in the Middle Eastern waters; Operation FOUNDATION in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia; Operation IMPACT in Iraq and Syria; and Operation PROTEUS in Jerusalem.