Hundreds of people gathered inside Glenwood Centre Nov. 11, 2022 to honour the Alberni Valley’s veterans. It was the first indoor ceremony since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The number of veterans in attendance was smaller than it has been in past years. The average age of Second World War veterans in Canada is now 97, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. A small number of younger veterans joined the parade in Port Alberni this year.
Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said it was nice to see so many people gathering as one crowd “to remember those that have fallen in the service of our country, and to honour those who serve today, and those who have served in the past.
“I’d like to first appreciate the strong community representation we have in this hall today,” Minions said. “It has been way too long since we’ve been able to gather this way, to do Remembrance Day like we are known for in Port Alberni. I’m so grateful we’re able to be here.”
“We, like every community, have sent many people from our town to serve in the trenches overseas. Today is a day to reflect and appreciate the sacrifices that they’ve made.”
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 padre, Salvation Army Major Michael Ramsay, talked of some of the veterans from the Alberni Valley who served in the First and Second World Wars. One of those veterans was Edward John Clutesi from Tseshaht First Nation, who died in northern France in August 1944, in the Battle of Normandy. He was 26.
Following the laying of wreaths and benediction, the crowd sang God Save the King for the first time in 70 years, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.
A much smaller group of veterans and supporters gathered at the cenotaph in the Field of Honour, at Greenwood Cemetery, for a brief ceremony following the Glenwood Centre ceremony. Veterans and residents alike were invited to lay poppies atop the cenotaph after Major Michael Ramsay said a few words and a prayer. The crowd then moved on to the Vietnam Veterans’ memorial and the Hupacasath First Nations cemetery, where First Nations veterans were honoured for their service and sacrifice.
Roger Miller, a Vietnam veteran born in Burlington, Vermont and living in the Alberni Valley, thanked everyone for taking a moment to honour PFC Michael F. Campbell, a Canadian who was killed in action in Vietnam on April 26, 1968. This is the 30th year that Vietnam veterans have been recognized at Campbell’s grave site, Miller said.
The site, which was commemorated on Nov. 11, 1992 by the Vietnam Veterans in Canada and the 101st Airborne Division of the US army, usually sports both American and Canadian flags. Miller said it is unfortunate that people insist on removing the American flag from the memorial.
“I’ve put 10 flags on here already this year,” he said.
Veterans and supporters walked outside the gates to Greenwood cemetery and up Josephine Street to the Hupacasath First Nations cemetery, where Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder spoke of the veterans buried there, surrounded by tall trees. Poppies were placed on the veterans’ headstones, the red making a statement among the trees and moss.