One hundred years after the guns fell silent, six local Canadian Army reservists describe what the First World War and Remembrance Day means to them.
All the soldiers interviewed are currently serving with the First Battalion of The Nova Scotia Highlanders (North), based at the Truro Armoury.
SERGEANT CHARLES LAVERS, 32
FROM PICTOU COUNTY
SERVED IN AFGHANISTAN
My thoughts 100 years after the Great War is what a lucky time it is to be a Canadian.
We take for granted, I think, every day the liberties we have here in the First World and it’s just hard to wrap your mind around it, to think of the sacrifices that not only soldiers from Canada at the time made, but all their families.
Everyone took part in the world wars. I think it’s just amazing, the efforts and the length that people went to, to defend what we have here to enjoy today.
Global history is really important. Of course, it’s one of the first steps we take to try and avoid repeating history. Maybe that’s impossible to do, but more people should become aware of it, youth especially.
It’s all about attrition, they’re going to be the leaders eventually, so to keep those tragedies and sacrifices in mind if they don’t want to repeat that, hopefully we can learn from that and understand what it took to get to the place we are today.
Keeping on doing what we’re doing is a good first step, we do our Remembrance Day, I think the education system does a good job at informing young Canadians today.
Don’t forget. Don’t get complacent and lazy. Once those people are gone, it becomes even more important to carry on in our memorial traditions, because those voices are next to being lost.
I served in Afghanistan in 2009. I volunteered to go with the Royal Canadian Van Doos and we were there as a provincial reconstruction team and provided security at some of the bases in Kandahar Province.
It made it a lot more personal to me of course, and it opened my eyes to just a fraction of the sacrifice the people before us in the Canadian Armed Forces have endured and chosen to make.
Research. Take a look at what our involvement was. We didn’t necessarily fix the country as a united nation, but we made a lot of progress.
We helped a lot of people and that was really important. Changing the minds of the youths there. That was so important.
I think a lot of people benefited while we were there.
MASTER CORPORAL COLTAN IRVING, 24
As far as the actual Remembrance Day ceremony goes, we’ll be marching to the Truro Cenotaph in front of the police station to participate in the parade there.
I feel like it means a lot to the younger community, to at least know about their past, even if they weren’t a part of it being in the Canadian Armed Forces, even just for the general public to go view it, so that way they know something about the past and what Canadian military members did for the country.
If there were no younger people joining the Canadian Armed Forces to keep that tradition on, it would almost feel like a waste for those people who did sacrifice their lives for Canadians.
There’s always a possibility for anything to happen but I feel that the men and women who join up know what they’re getting into for the most part and that doesn’t really deter them from joining or participating in any training for real-life scenarios.
The biggest thing I can say is just show up, show support for current and past members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Make sure you support the Legion, buy a poppy and show up on Remembrance Day.
CORPORAL RACHEL PRING, 18
FROM EAST MOUNTAIN
To me, personally, because pretty much my entire family is in the military, it’s about family. I’m in the military, my younger brother’s in the military, my father’s in the military and my mother is in the military.
I found out over the summer that my great uncle – my grandfather’s brother – was also in the military. He served in the First and Second World Wars, lied about his age both times and actually served in this unit, so to me it’s about being proud of who you are and who your ancestors were and what they did and how they served. It’s about the pride of the past.
I don’t know where my great uncle served in the First World War but in the Second World War he was with the Amherst Company of the Nova Scotia Highlanders and he actually ended up going to France.
I’m sad, but at the same time I’m proud that we are in such a state of readiness today. The Canadian Armed Forces as a whole are ready for anything and we’re ready to help anyone in any type of conflict.
PRIVATE MATTHEW PRING, 16
FROM EAST MOUNTAIN, RACHEL’S BROTHER
Remembrance Day? What it means to me is remembering every single soldier that fought in the war in one way or another. Not just the soldiers who fought for the Highlanders but also those who fought on the other side as well, which is a story that not a lot of people are told, because they also fought for their families and loved ones back home – but they were on the other side.
We need to make sure the facts we do have are not glamourized or put down – that they stay the same, so we can see that this is what happened, and this is how it happened and there’s nothing that changes, so it stays factual for the entirety of world history.
CORPORAL BRENT GARNHUM, 21
To me, it is a big deal being here in the reserve unit, especially as an infantryman, because basically when they went into battle I looked back and I said to myself ‘That’s what I would have done back in the day.’
My subordinates … I want them to remember that it’s because of what they sacrificed for us – that’s what we have here today. So again, maybe in another 100 years’ time from today, we can be the ones remembered. Hopefully, no one falls on the field of battle, but I want my soldiers to be ready and remember why those before them sacrificed, so they’re ready to do the same.
My message to the public would be, don’t take things for granted. What we have here today in our society was built, in my opinion, on what the Canadian Armed Forces did, and they marked the path for us and what we have today.
Go out, support your local reserve units, come to the open houses, see what we have to offer. Just don’t take life for granted.
PRIVATE TYLER HOWE, 19,
FROM UPPER STEWIACKE
I think it’s remarkable how long ago it was; there were a lot of movies about it. It should definitely be something in our history that we learn about and remember. We should make sure those events never happen again and we learn from them and always remember the men who sacrificed.
From our unit alone, we honour all the men that have passed away in the wars and our ancestors who have been in the wars.
I think all events should be remembered and I took history and I know most of what happened, but there’s still a lot of events that never get discussed and a lot of people don’t even know about them.
Comments edited for clarity and in some cases, length.