Remembrance Day in St. Thomas looked quite different than last year's limited ceremony, as hundreds gathered at Veterans Memorial Garden Thursday to show gratitude to those who served in Canada's military, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Open to the public with protocols in place for masks and physical distancing, the event drew Legion members, cadets, veterans and ordinary citizens who came to pay their respects.
“I was hoping for a fairly good turnout, and it turned out bigger than what I had hoped,” said Adrian Williams, a Legion member and the event chair, organized by the Lord Elgin branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
He said due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 15 wreaths this year were laid prior to the ceremony, a far cry from the 95 typically on display.
The ceremony began with the colour guard marching to the memorial garden and the singing of O Canada. In Flanders Fields, the historic wartime poem, was also recited, marking the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Canada.
And though there was no parade this year due to the pandemic, at about 11 a.m., participants looked up to watch a flyover by pilots with the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA).
Following the ceremony, dozens of people lined up to lay their poppies on the wreaths.
Among them was St. Thomas resident Alice Neill and her dog, Tuukka.
Neill said the day hits close to home — her grandfather and father served in the Canadian Army, and her husband died on Nov. 11.
“My grandfather was in the First World War, and my father was in the (Second World) War in Egypt,” Neill said.
“I brought this guy (Tuukka) along because there were a lot of animals that lost their lives (in war), which were just as loyal and dedicated as the humans,” she said, looking down at her two-year-old German Shepherd. “He’s here to represent them.
A collection of wartime jeeps from the St. Thomas Jeep Troop with the Elgin Regiment Association was on display at the back of the park.
At the other end, not far from the wreaths and colour guard, stood Sgt. Ron Taylor, a bagpiper with the St. Thomas Police Pipes and Drums who began the ceremony.
“I’m quite honoured to be here. It was very moving for me today, especially to play,” Taylor said, referring to his family members who served in the war.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press