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Young people a bright sight at Victoria Remembrance Day service

Nov 12 2012
Twins Jodi and Hana Blaicher, 9, salute during the Remembrance Day ceremonies. 

Twins Jodi and Hana Blaicher, 9, salute during the Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

The sight of two young girls paying tribute to the war dead during at a  Remembrance Day ceremony at Victoria’s cenotaph Sunday overwhelmed local Silver Cross mother Sheila Fynes.

“They were saluting,” Fynes said. “It brought tears to my eyes. There’s a growing youth awareness.” The nine-year-old twins, Jodi and Hana Blaicher, were not alone in showing their respect at the annual event.

Throughout the black and muted tones of the crowds lined around the legislature and the Inner Harbour were blasts of colour. The bright hues were the winter jackets of children who withstood the cold, with their parents, to honour those who served in war. At least one boy in a front row even donned a kilt.

Master of ceremonies Don Hepburn was also impressed by the turnout, especially the representation of all ages.

“I think a lot of new people are showing their respect, especially young people,” Hepburn said. As veterans marched past the cenotaph after the nearly hour-long ceremony concluded, Hepburn described Canada as heaven.

“This is the best country in the world and it’s because of all those people going by us right now,” he said. Hepburn’s father, Bert, served in the Second World War. Both of his grandfathers served in the First World War.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae shook Hepburn’s hand.

Rae, representing Canadian members of Parliament at the ceremony, said our forces in Afghanistan remind Canadians of those still putting their lives on the line for their fellow Canadians.

“It’s very real for Canadians,” Rae said. “What’s wonderful about today is the ceremonies are getting bigger.”

The diverse crowd was also marked by many elderly, who faced the cold bravely whether they needed a cane or could only shuffle as they walked.

Rear-Admiral Bill Truelove, commander Maritime Forces Pacific, arrived about 10:50 a.m., followed minutes later by B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

Sunday’s order of service included the singing of “O Canada” as the first of a scheduled 21-gun salute conducted by the 5th B.C. Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, sent a resounding blast through the Inner Harbour.

That opening was followed by the playing of the Last Post and two minutes of silence in memory of the war dead. Hepburn then read the Act of Remembrance:

“They shall grow not old as we that are left old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.” The crowd joined in for the last refrain of “we will remember them.”

The hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” was followed by prayers offered by Rev. K.M. Collison of the Royal Canadian Legion.

“We pray for the members of our armed forces deployed throughout the world. May they and their families know your protection, may they receive the support of a grateful nation,” Collison read.

“Loving Father, may those who return wounded and disabled receive assistance benefiting their sacrifice, and may those who gave their lives never be forgotten.”

Fynes has been the Silver Cross Mother in Victoria for four years now.

She said her thoughts are with those who have died for their country and for the health of those who return forever changed.

“It’s just really important. Don’t forget — ever,” Fynes said. “Stu’s legacy has to be for the physically and invisibly wounded.”

Fynes’s son, Afghanistan veteran Cpl. Stuart Langridge, 28, attempted suicide several times and also struggled with depression and alcohol and drug abuse before taking his own life in 2008 at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

His parents maintain he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was not properly supported by the Canadian Forces. However, the military has insisted that that alcohol and drugs were at the root of his problem.

The Fynes allege that three National Investigation Service inquiries into Langridge’s death were biased in favour of the military.

A Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry has yet to rule on the matter.

 Federal lawyers have been given until January to present their final arguments.

The inquiry was due to end Nov. 15, but the federal Justice Department legal team has asked for more time to read and analyze evidence and the testimony of 91 witnesses who appeared during the inquiry.

Fynes said she never asked that the inquiry be done fast, only that it be done well.

In 2008, Fynes joined her husband Shawn and youngest son Michael in laying a wreath for Stuart at Victoria’s cenotaph after the official ceremony had ended.

Pat Paterson, chairman of the Victoria Remembrance Day Committee (Poppy Fund), saw this and approached Fynes to see whether she had any interest in becoming the local Silver Cross mother.

She explained to Paterson that her son had returned from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and suggested they might not want her. On the contrary, Paterson and Roger McBride, the committee administrator, welcomed Fynes. They have “shown courage” in their support of her family, she said.

“It’s hugely significant that they stepped up,” Fynes said during a gathering Sunday at the Trafalgar-Pro Patria Legion Branch No. 292, off Gorge Road.

Fynes would first become Victoria’s Silver Cross mother in 2009.

Each year, following the Remembrance Day ceremony, the family still lays a wreath of their own. It reads, “Stu, our hero.”

— With files from Postmedia News

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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