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Decoration Day a time to say thank you

Emily Distefano

 
Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 18, the 179 Morden Air Cadet Squadron and community residents gathered at the Greenwood Cemetery in Carman on Sunday to adorn the graves of veterans with Canadian flags on Decoration Day. (EMILY DISTEFANO)

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 18, the 179 Morden Air Cadet Squadron and community residents gathered at the Greenwood Cemetery in Carman on Sunday to adorn the graves of veterans with Canadian flags on Decoration Day. (EMILY DISTEFANO)

Carman and area residents celebrated Decoration Day on Sunday, June 3 with a brief ceremony and the adornment of veterans’ graves at Carman’s Greenwood Ceremony.

With members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 18, the Carman Legion Colour Party, the 179 Morden Air Cadet Squadron and other community members wishing to pay their respects to veterans, there were around 40 people in attendance.

Carman Legion First Vice President Karen Maxwell organized the event, and she said it went well. She was pleased to see members of the community there, and happy to have sunny weather for the afternoon after so much rain in the preceding days.

Maxwell, who placed a flag on her own grandfather’s grave, said the Carman Legion does its best to include every other veteran that they know about. The goal is to make sure no one is left out of this personal tribute.

“We’re honoured to do it,” she said.

Maxwell said the organization would love to see more people get involved in honouring their own family members who have served, since it’s important to maintain that personal connection.

She became emotional when asked about the meaning of Decoration Day for herself, saying that gratitude for veterans should be an every-day thing and not just a one-day thing. The flags are just one more way to show that thankfulness.

“It’s a thank-you for what they’ve done for our country…it’s just our way of saying thank you to them and honouring their memory, and we never forget,” she said.

Lest we forget

One way that Decoration Day participants are trying to promote rememberance is by getting the youngest generations involved.

Carman Legion Sergeant at Arms Harley Shepherd shared the day with his own two children, four-year-old Adelynn and two-year-old Brielle Shepherd.

Shepherd said it was the first year the girls were old enough to attend the Decoration Day and participate in the day’s activities.

The girls helped to honour their great-great grandfather Slim Graham, who served in World War II and the Air Force, and their great-grandfather Harvey Bartley who served in World War II. They also have a great-great-great uncle who sacrificed his life at Vimy Ridge.

“We just think it’s really important for the kids to know that, as long ago as this is, you have to remember that this affected all sorts of people,” he said. “I’m hoping that by starting them this young they’ll kind of get an idea of how special it is.”

More flags available

Maxwell noted that Legion members were planning to visit graves in nearby communities as well, and there are Canadian flags available at the Carman Legion for anyone else who wants to make sure to honour a local veteran this year.

“It doesn’t just have to be today, for Decoration Day, [the flags are] available throughout the whole year,” she said.

Canada’s Decoration Day started in 1890 as a part of a protest by forgotten veterans in Ontario, and the occasion grew to be a way for people across Canada to show their respect and gratitude for the sacrifices veterans make. People decorated soldiers’ graves with flowers, wreaths and garlands.

In Carman, the day has been celebrated for many years, although with a few breaks. The local event was resurrected in 2015 and has been held every year since.

To find out more, you can contact the Carman Legion at 204-745-2454.

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edistefano@postmedia.com