Sudbury gathers to honour and grieve for Canada's veterans

A crowd of hundreds circled around the Memorial Park Cenotaph on Friday morning to partake in a Remembrance Day ceremony in honour of members of the armed forced who died in the line of duty.

For many years, the annual memorial service in Sudbury has been held inside the Sudbury Arena. But this year, local veterans wanted to return the ceremony outdoors, said Jennifer Huard, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 564 Lockerby.

"It doesn't matter what the weather conditions are," she said. "If you think about the months and years that our Canadian veterans serve outdoors in all weather conditions, for us to stand out her for 45 minutes is really a small sacrifice to pay."

The day's services began with a parade from the Sudbury Armoury on Riverside Drive, which marched down Broadway Street to Brady Street for the ceremony in Memorial Park near Tom Davies Square. The parade featured members of the 2nd battalion, Irish Regiment of Canada, local reserves and cadets, and members of local emergency services.

At Memorial Park, members of the public gathered around the Cenotaph, which was erected in 1957 in memory of 575 citizens of the Greater Sudbury area who died in the First and Second World War, as well as the Korean War.

In the last decade, Huard said, fewer and fewer Second World War veterans remain in Sudbury as time takes it toll.

"In my branch alone, I have six of them," she said.

Now, it's veterans of Canada's more recent wars, including Afghanistan and Iraq, who have taken charge of these memorial services, and the responsibility of honouring the dead.

"It's a whole new generation of veterans," said Huard. "But it hasn't changed. They're honouring all the veterans, the older generation and the next generation. All those who signed their name on the dotted line and were willing to sacrifice everything."

The official ceremony, led by Huard, was held under a cloudy sky at the base of the Cenotaph. Lo-Ellen student Ella Koskela sang O' Canada and God Save the King, while local veterans gave readings of famous remembrance poems, The Blood Red Poppy and In Flanders Fields.

At 11 o'clock, bugler Lt. Thomas Hake and piper Cpt. John Adams played salutes. Then, the crowd bowed their heads for a moment of silence.

When it was time to lay the wreaths at the foot of monument, veteran Randy Desarmeau stepped as the escort. Local officials, including Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe, Sudbury MPP Jamie West, and mayor-elect Paul Lefebvre, all partook, laying wreaths in honour on behalf of each level of government. Representatives from a dozen local organizations also paid their respects.

Silver Cross mother Wendy Miller also laid a wreath in honour of her son, Private Andrew Miller a Canadian medic who died in 2010 at the age of 21 in Afghanistan, the victim of a roadside bomb.

"He was the funniest kid growing up," Miller said of her son. "He was a geek. Always had a first aid kit on him, always getting into trouble at school, but he excelled in the army."

Miller said that attending ceremonies to remember those who sacrificed their lives, like her son, is an honour. Despite the emotion, the respect for their contributions fills her with pride.

"Everybody that talks to me says the same thing: (Andrew) had the best smile, and he was kind, but he was brave. When there's mayhem and chaos, people run away from it. But he would always run to it to help people out."

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star