Remembrance Day is dedicated to all those who have served their country and sacrificed their lives so that we may live in freedom.
Each November, the De La Salle "Oaklands" school community gathers to pray, to reflect, and to honour those men and women who served and died in the defense of our country. The practice of remembering those lost in war began in 1919 and is observed by the governments of many countries year after year, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in accordance with the armistice that ended World War I on November 11th in 1918.
Here at De La Salle, we especially remember those of our school community who were directly involved in war, including Frederick Albert Tilston, a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, who was also an Oaklands graduate.
"As Canadians, we continue to mark some special anniversaries this year," said Lt.-Colonel Joseph Nonato, commanding officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada and Oaklands faculty member. "This year we commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, and the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, all historic battles that defined our nation."
This year's assembly began with a formal procession by the distinguished members of the De La Salle Cadet Corps and was followed by prayers and reflections lead by Mme. Burlon and Grade 12 student Hannah Beltran.
"Pain, loss, suffering, and death, are all shared experiences," said Mr. De Sanctis in his opening remarks to the school community. "If we are able to remember, recall, and empathize with those afflicted, we are more likely to act in a way that will prevent those same experiences in the future."
The Grade 10 and 11 drama students then used a combination of tableau, video projection, choral speaking, creative movement, poetry, song, and works of art, to pay tribute to the fallen and honour our veterans.
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 drama students invoked the memories of war through the eyes of three soldiers called to serve their country and the loved ones they were forced to leave behind. The dramatic presentation, underscored by a moving soundtrack and a specially-designed video backdrop, retold the soldiers' parting with those they loved, their deployment to the battlefield, of their lives with fellow soldiers in the trenches, and the ultimate sacrifice they made for their country. The presentation ended with a recitation of John McCrae's famous poem "In Flanders Field".
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 Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the tribute.
After the ceremonial laying of wreaths, Mr. Craig Thompson played the Last Post which was followed by a moment of silence. Guest piper Liam Hoyle followed with the Piper's Lament.
The ceremony concluded with an address by Br. Domenic who reminded the school community that, "We can never forget the acts of bravery and courage made by those who went into battle. Despite our country's small population, we are one that has made a considerable contribution to the freedoms of the world. It's part of our Canadian Heritage. They were young boys who went to do the right thing. They didn't come home, but their memories helped build our our nation."
On Remembrance Day, the De La Salle community dutifully acknowledges the courage and sacrifice of those who served 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, Lt.Col. Nonato, Capt. Rousselle, Mme. Burlon, Ms. Pellegrino, and Ms. Minervini for all their hard work in the preparation and execution of this ceremony.