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North River students ponder the true meaning of sacrifice before Remembrance Day

Children at North River Elementary School enjoyed spending time with veterans and Royal Canadian Legion members. From left: Legion representative Murray Dawson, Emily Pratt, Lily-Beth Fisher and her grandfather Ken Copeland.
Children at North River Elementary School enjoyed spending time with veterans and Royal Canadian Legion members. From left: Legion representative Murray Dawson, Emily Pratt, Lily-Beth Fisher and her grandfather Ken Copeland. - Fram Dinshaw

For Emily Pratt, being free means something as simple as being able to play football at recess. Learning about the soldiers who fought and died for it helped her see why this is so

NORTH RIVER, N.S. —

Emily Pratt loves nothing more than a game of soccer or football at recess, simple freedoms enjoyed by millions of Canadian kids.

This Remembrance Day weekend, Pratt learned that her freedom to be a child was thanks to the sacrifices made by countless Canadian and allied soldiers. She joined other students at North River Elementary School in marking a minute’s silence for veterans, at a special assembly on Nov. 8.

“Every time I listen to the moment of silence I start to cry, I hide it sometimes from everyone around me,” said Pratt, who is in Grade 6. “It’s really special to me. I think of the people who died for us, for our country.”

When asked what life was like for children in Syria or other countries facing war or tyranny, Pratt’s response was simple.

There would be no carefree lunch breaks or gym sessions. Children may be taught to think in a certain way.

However, Pratt has already learned about those soldiers who stopped tyranny in class.

This includes the story of Lawrence Rodgers, a Quebec man who served in the First World War. His 10-year-old daughter Aileen gave him her teddy bear, which he hung on to until 1917, when he died in the Battle of Passchendaele. The stuffed animal is now on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

“It made me think about how a lot of people died,” said Pratt.

Meantime, Grade 5 student Cole Singer contemplated his own life. He is a naval cadet and said the cadet corps has several stages of advancement.

While there is no obligation for Canadian cadets to join the regular forces, many choose to do so.

Singer said if he chose to join the military as an adult and survived, he too would be a veteran.

“It kinda scares me a little bit, because if I get qualified to go into the army, I might not come back and I’m afraid to die,” said Singer.

One person at the assembly who did serve in the army was Ken Copeland, visiting the school where his granddaughter Lily-Beth Fisher attends.

“It’s hard to listen," said Copeland of the school ceremony. “Something as silly as the Last Post just dredges up memories, but I come out for my grandchild.”

Copeland served on peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

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