No crowds: Remembrance will be different in 2020

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The Flatbush and Smith Legions may or not have a Remembrance Day Ceremony. If they do, it will be very different because of COVID-19. Slave Lake is having one, but it is shorter and people must social distance or attend virtually.

November 11 at 10:55 a.m., the cenotaph ceremony at the Slave Lake Legion starts, says Slave Lake Legion president Beth McDonald.

“We hope to go on Facebook Live with the ceremony. Once the official wreaths have been laid the rest of the ceremony will be Facebook videos we have prepared. The club room will be open for (Legion) members, veterans and guests only. Sorry, no free chili this year as we just do not have the space to accommodate people and follow social distancing rules.”

As far as Flatbush Legion president Peggy Laing knows, the last time Flatbush didn’t have a Remembrance Day Ceremony was during World War II.

“The Remembrance Day Ceremony has played a major role in remembrance since 1931,” says the Royal Canadian Legion website. “Every year, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we gather in memorial parks, community halls, workplaces, schools and homes to stand in honour of all who have fallen. Together, we observe a moment of silence to mark the sacrifice of the many who have fallen in the service of their country, and to acknowledge the courage of those who still serve.”

This usually includes speeches, a parade of military, cadets, police officers and dignitaries. Individuals and businesses also purchase wreaths from the Legion and place them on a memorial. Individual Canadians usually place their poppies on a wreath.

As of Oct. 19, the Smith and Flatbush Legion’s hadn’t decided about Remembrance Day.

“We are instructed by head command,” says James Anderson, president of the Smith Legion, that if the legion holds a Remembrance Day Ceremony it must be virtual, with “no crowd gathering.” People can buy wreaths, but Legion members have to place them by the memorial.

“If we do anything,” adds Laing. It will be a viewing-only service. The legion is not allowed to ask military or cadets to attend. Flatbush usually has 120 to 140 people of all ages attend its Remembrance Day Ceremony. However, the majority of veterans and Legion members are seniors, so at high risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Slave Lake and Wabasca poppy distribution starts October 26 and continues until November 11, says McDonald. The cadets will not be selling them this year, but they will be available in displays at various local companies. Also, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 10, the Legion will be open for select hours for people to buy poppies and wreaths, ask questions, and gather remembrance teaching guides.

In the past, some local schools have sent postcards to veterans during Veterans Week, which includes Remembrance Day.

Starting this year, the Slave Lake Legion will have postcards available for anyone, especially children, who would like to write a veteran. These will be divided between local veterans and people currently serving overseas. This is part of a national program.

“We’d like to make that (the postcards) annual,” says McDonald.

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