Marking graves and ringing bells for peace
|By Joseph Quigley - Staff Writer | Nov. 8, 2018|
Standing in the rain amidst the final resting places of World War I veterans at the Evergreen Cemetery, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students honoured them with flags Nov. 6.
The effort was the culmination of a project by the school’s leadership class and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 129 Haliburton to create a database of local World War I veterans buried locally as part of honouring the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Student Madeline Hopkins said researching these figures, using digital military personnel records, was an emotional experience. She said they found veterans who were related to a lot of people at the school.
“It’s quite inspiring to hear what they did for our country,” Hopkins said. “Seeing them join before they really had any idea what they were joining, it was such a sobering thing to read about.”
The Haliburton legion has been working to find World War I veterans buried in local cemeteries as part of the Bells of Remembrance project. Legion public relations officer Linda Heeps said the organization plans to work to help better the places the veterans are buried, applying for a federal grant for new tombstones for unmarked graves.
“I’m almost positive eight vets are buried in that graveyard with no recognition and that to me is sad. They went to war for us, they kept our country safe, the very least we can do is put markers on their gravesite,” Heeps said.
The effort is part of a national push from the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command to have youth across the country mark the graves of World War I veterans.
Leadership class teacher Paul Longo said doing this research has taught students about just how many local families were affected by the war.
“There are so many incredible stories that we’re finding in these digitized service files and they’re just unbelievable,” Longo said. “It’s just opened their eyes a little bit to kind of making the history of the war come alive for them.”
But marking the graves is only part of the legion’s Remembrance Day festivities this year. For the day itself, the legion has partnered with five local churches – St. George’s Anglican Church, Haliburton United Church, St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, West Guilford Baptist Church and Northland Faith Church – to have a synchronized bell ringing. Each of the churches will start ringing their bells Nov. 11 as dusk falls at 4:49 p.m. The bells will be rung 100 times at five-second intervals, according to a legion press release.
St. George’s Anglican Church pastor Ken McClure said it was a good way for churches to commemorate local people who served in the war and their families.
“It’s important for churches around Remembrance Day especially, to both stand as agents of peace while at the same time honouring and respecting and holding up those who have fallen because of the absence of peace,” McClure said.
Heeps said it was crucial to remember these soldiers.