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Petawawa honours Canada's war dead

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


PETAWAWA – A bitterly cold but poignant Remembrance Day ceremony here marked Canadian heroism and sacrifice during one of the most pivotal battles of the First World War Saturday.

Much like the weather when our troops left their trenches to take the Passchendaele ridge overlooking Ypres, Belgium, residents, veterans and servicemen and women were greeted with a fresh sprinkling of snow as a crowd of almost 2,000 gathered around the Petawawa cenotaph on the grounds of the Royal Canadian Legion 517 to remember Canadians who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we take for granted today.

Held on this day to mark the Armistice that ended “the war to end all wars” in 1918, this year's ceremony paid tribute to the Canadian Corps, who lost 16,000 men during the Battle of Passchendaele which concluded on Nov. 10, 1917. It also observed the Battle of Vimy Ridge, an engagement that began on April 9, 1917 with the largest artillery barrage in history and culminated with the seizing of the strategic French stronghold four days later at the cost of 3,598 Canadian lives.

“On this the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, we remember those that have fought for our freedom, have given their all over the years in all conflicts this great nation of Canada has been involved with,” said branch past-president Helene Hahn. “We honour our dead, we support our wounded of both physical and wounds of the mind. We will be forever thankful.”

A parade of veterans, serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, cadets and school children marched smartly down Petawawa Boulevard and into the cenotaph site. Two minutes of silence at 11 a.m., marking the time the First World War Armistice took effect, was interrupted only by the distance rapport of a 105-millimetre howitzer fired by a detachment from 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

Wreaths were then laid in front of the memorial's five granite columns, which recognizes Canada's fallen from South African War, First World War, Second World War, Korea, Afghanistan and those killed in peacekeeping. This year's Silver Cross Mother, Jihan Diab, led the procession of families, friends and fellow comrades who laid a wreath in memory of a fallen son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister.

Her son, 22-year-old Trooper Marc Diab, with the Petawawa-based Royal Canadian Dragoons, was killed in 2009 when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated near his reconnaissance armoured vehicle during a patrol in the mountainous Shah Wali Kot district, north of Kandahar City. Wreaths were also laid in memory of Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, killed in a firefight in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar in 2006, Cpl. Jamie Murphy, claimed by a suicide bomber in Kabul in 2004, and Cpl. Matthew Dinning, who died in an IED strike in Kandahar in 2006.

“We thank you for the opportunity to gather as a community to pay tribute to the men and women who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice in the battle to rid the world of tyranny and terrorism so that we, and those around the world, may live in peace,” said padre Capt. Matthew Lucas, who also noted the bravery of the Canadian Corps in the battle of Passchendaele during his homily.

“They once again demonstrated the ingenuity of a determined battle group to advance over murky terrain and enemy fire where others had not been able to succeed,” said Padre Lucas.


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