Pikwakanagan – Overlooking Golden Lake on a hill, the community of Pikwakanagan remembered those many soldiers of the community and the warriors who served and the many who died, serving their nation and community.
“This day is, of course, a tribute to those who have given their lives in the service of our country,” Chief Wendy-Anne Jocko said. “Though different wars happen for different reasons in different eras with varying levels of popular support, what is common to them all is that many went, many returned, and some did not.”
She noted all who served swore an oath, knowing they may have to give their lives in service.
“Some military children have rejoiced at their parents’ return from war; some have wept,” she said. “Some parents have greeted their returning sons and daughters with laughter and ‘Welcome Home’ signs; others have greeted flag-draped coffins with a sorrow that, unless experienced, is hard to comprehend.
“For some, remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is something they do every hour of every day,” Chief Jocko, a veteran herself, noted.
Remembrance Day is a time to pay special homage to those who died in service and remember brave men and women for their courage and their devotion to ideals, she noted.
She spoke of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located before the National War Memorial in Confederation square in Ottawa. This was once guarded by Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada who was tragically gunned down eight years ago on October 22, 2014. The tomb is dedicated to Canadian service members and holds the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in France during WW1 near Vimy.
“The most carefully guarded and iconic of all graves belongs to those who do not have so much as an identity, who are, in a sense, the least among the thousands of their brethren buried there, the least loved, the least known,” she said. “But in the Creator’s view, not one is forgotten. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge.
“He knows the names of all the unknowns who lay buried in cemeteries, in the fields of France, in the depths of the sea, or elsewhere in unmarked graves,” she said. “He is a Creator well-acquainted with both obscurity and sacrifice. He is the Creator God who told us that ‘greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.
“Indeed, something about obscurity speaks deeply to the nature of sacrifice,” she said. “A sacrifice is magnified when the giver gains no glory from it, in life or death, so the unnamed soldier stands as an example of a particularly high ideal of self-sacrifice.”
Chief Jocko said it is also important to remember today’s forgotten heroes who are lost to suicide.
“The number of Canadian military personnel who have died by suicide over the last decade is more than the service members who were killed while serving in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014,” she said. “The tragic loss of life of Canadian Armed Forces members due to suicide requires ongoing focus to understand these difficult events.”
She said while not everyone can raise up a physical monument, they can “send up a prayer for the soldiers, that, in a busy and forgetful world, everyone may be prayed for, thanked and remembered.”
Chief Jocko concluded her speech in Algonquin.
“I’iw nama’a wi nan, maaba nesemaa, minwaa n’ode’winaanin gda-bugidinimaagom,” she said. “We offer our prayers, tobacco and our hearts.”
CFB Petawawa 2 Service Battalion Maintenance Company Major Hillary Forbes spoke to the gathering, thanking the Algonquin people for their history of welcoming many nations to their territory. “We acknowledge our shared responsibility to ensure health and wellbeing for all creation for generations to come,” she noted.
The soldiers are honoured to be present for the day of reflection and remembrance, she said.
“We remember the soldiers, sailors and aviators who never came home,” she said. “And we also remember the ones who came home, but did so changed, who had to live with the physical and mental scars of war. These people are our loved ones. They are our community leaders, our friends, grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers or children. We also acknowledge today the sacrifices of the families of these brave people.”
Making time to acknowledge the sacrifices is important as it gives time to pause and truly focus and reflect, she said.
“We can also honour them and their sacrifice every day,” she said. “We can do this by helping to create and sustain the peace and freedom that was so hard won. We can do this by not taking the freedom and peace for granted. It is up to us to ensure their dream of peace continues.”
The Pikwakanagan Women Drummers sang at the beginning and end of the service. Among them were some who were wearing ribbon skirts made out of poppy material. Chantel Chadwick was one of the drummers and she made the skirts for her mom, Ann Chadwick and another relative, Michele Whiteduck.
“This is to honour our veterans who went to war for us,” she noted.
Her great grandfather, Joseph Jocko Lamure, has his name inscribed in the WW I cenotaph stone. He also served in WW II, she noted.
Making the ribbon skirts was important to her and part of her healing journey, she said.
“This is to recognize our culture as well as to honour that,” she remarked.
She has been on a healing and reconnecting journey with her culture and doing traditional crafts has been a big part of that for her, she said.
As part of the service several wreaths were laid and the gathering was then invited to the Makwa Centre for a luncheon, including the popular moose chili and moose stew.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader