The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 129 Haliburton honoured the sacrifices of local veterans despite the pandemic with its second annual Veterans Decoration Day service Sept. 21.

Members of the legion, the Haliburton Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary and the Haliburton and District Lions Club attended the St. Anthony Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery to place crosses at the graves of veterans. The pandemic meant that members of the public, including veterans’ families and high school students who placed the crosses previously, could not attend.

Public relations officer Linda Heeps said she would have liked to have the public involved.

“We couldn’t have the public, which is saddening because many family members put their own (crosses),” Heeps said. “We have to live within the rules.”

Attendees laid approximately 180 crosses, which will remain in place until Sept. 27. A small service was held, featuring a colour party and prayers by Reverend Garry Swagerman.

Heeps said it was important to recognize veterans’ sacrifices despite the pandemic.

“I can’t even imaging going to war. I couldn’t even imagine how awful it is,” she said. “If we can honour them once a year, it’s not too much to ask.”

Remembrance Day events cancelled

The pandemic is also hitting legions’ Remembrance Day ceremonies, with Haliburton legion president Paul Sisson announcing there will be no local event by order of Ontario Command. Instead, the legion will have a service with a small number of members laying wreaths at the cenotaph on behalf of people who request them.

“I don’t think that the veterans are getting the recognition that they deserve by not having people attending the ceremony,” Sisson said. “COVID-19, it certainly has made a lot of changes in lifestyle.”

The order applies to all legions across the province, though small services will happen. The Royal Canadian Legion is also doing a Facebook Live stream of the national Remembrance Day ceremony.

“There’s no way we can fit it in with COVID. We might have tried to put together a plan being a small community, but it came down from Dominion Command,” Heeps said. “It’s sad because it’s a real highlight of our community.”

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