Each November, Canadians pause and reflect upon those who serve our country in times of war and peace.
We also honour the memories of Canada’s vast army of the fallen. During World War I, tens of thousands of official death notices were delivered by telegram and brought news of grief, stating that a loved one had been killed or lost in battle. Parents exchanged sons for medals. Those who survived sought meaning in the war and looked for a sense of closure. The legacy of pain lay like a shroud across the country.
To this day, Canadians have a great emotional response to the First World War, embodied in phrases such as “Lest We Forget,” “the war to end all wars,” “the birth of a nation,” and “the passing of the torch,” or in symbols and rituals such as Remembrance Day, the poppy, two minutes of silence, and the thousands of monuments across this country and overseas.
While the guns fell silent on the western front on the eleventh hour on November 11, 1918, the echo of the war’s long scream has reverberated to the present.
Each year, the Oaklands community pays tribute to the fallen, to war veterans, and to those in active service. This year was no different, as the school marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice with a poignant ceremony earlier this morning.
A formal procession by the distinguished members of the De La Salle Cadet Corps was followed by an introduction by Mr. De Sanctis. “Every year, on November 11, Canadians recognize all of Canada’s Veterans, serving and retired, and commemorate our fallen, including the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, Peace Officers, Merchant Navy, and Reserves,” he said in his address. “On the 11th, we also honour their families and their losses. Here at De La Salle, we especially remember those of our school community who were directly involved in war and who honorably served their country.”
A prayer and reflection lead by Mr. Iacobazzi was followed by an address by special guest, Retired MCpl James Balancio, who was on active duty for 16 years with the Canadian Armed Forces and served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
The Grade 10, 11, and 12 Drama students used a combination of tableau, video projection, choral speaking, reenactment, interpretive dance, and the reading of authentic letters written by Canadian soldiers who served in the First World War to pay tribute to the fallen and honour our veterans.
Thirty large boxes were used during the 30-minute long drama, and were strategically positioned as trenches and crates, into white crosses and red poppies, and in a dramatic finale, coming together to form our national flag.
Each year, Mr. Luchka and his drama classes strive to enhance the Remembrance Day ceremony by bringing to life the places and faces of the past and by echoing the words and emotions of wartime. This year, the 56 drama students invoked the memories of the First World War by reading telegrams sent to families of fallen Canadian soldiers and letters from loved ones to those in the trenches. They also recalled the story of George Lawrence Price who holds the sad distinction of being the last Canadian and last Commonwealth soldier to die in the conflict that claimed more than 60,000 Canadians in its four years. Price, a 25-year-old farm labourer from Saskatchewan, was struck by a single shot and killed two minutes before the Armistice went into effect at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
The dramatic presentation, underscored by a moving soundtrack and specially-designed video backdrop, retold the soldiers’ reasons for enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and their decisions to serve King and country. Through short monologues, students shared stories about life in the trenches, the horrors on the battlefield, and the anxieties felt by loved ones back home.
A beautifully-choreographed interpretive dance to the song “Ashes” by Celine Dion, was performed by Grade 12 drama students Amaya Dujon and Eliane Kayi.
Sadly, history records the names of millions of brave soldiers who would never come home. Of those, 86 were alumni of De La Salle 'Oaklands' whose names were scrolled during a special In Memoriam portion of the assembly. The Senior Concert Band, conducted by Mr. Shields, played composer Leonard Cohen’s haunting "Hallelujah" during the tribute.
After the ceremonial laying of wreaths, Grade 10 student Rachael Bowman played the Last Post which was followed by a moment of silence. Guest piper Liam Hoyle followed with the Piper's Lament.
Remembrance Day is not only a time to remember, but also a time to be thankful that we live in a country that does not take peace for granted and honours the sacrifice of those who lost their lives so that we may continue to live peace in a world overcome with so much conflict.
By remembering the service and sacrifice of those Canadian soldiers, we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed that their actions in the present would make a significant difference for the future, but it is up to us to ensure that their dream of peace is realized.
Major Candice Thompson, who currently serves in the Royal Canadian Air Force, was also a special guest at the College on Friday and made short presentations to select classes throughout the day. A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, Major Thompson most recently served with our Canadian Special Operations community. She has helped instruct our De La Salle Cadets, and recently got married to our own Captain Mena Ghabbour (DLS Cadet Corps Alumnus – Class of 2006). She is currently working at the Canadian Forces School of Administration and Logistics at the Canadian Forces Base Borden. Major Thompson is a good role model for our young ladies who might want to consider a career in the Canadian Armed Forces.
On Remembrance Day, the De La Salle community dutifully acknowledges the courage and sacrifice of those who served and continue to serve their country and acknowledges the responsibility to continue to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve.
Special thanks to Mr. De Sanctis, Mr. Luchka, Mr. Shields, Mr. Thompson, Lieutenant Colonel Nonato, Captain Rousselle, Ms. Domingues, Mr. Lue Tam,Miss Lenny DiBenedetto, and Ms. Minervini for all their hard work in the preparation and execution of this ceremony.
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