Former United States Marine Corps Sergeant Mike Stephens described Saturday’s Remembrance Day service in Millbrook First Nation, N.S. as humbling.
“My grandfathers were WWI and WWII veterans. To be even remotely considered in the same class in something like that is just a great honour,” Stephens said.
Stephens served with the US Marine Corp from 2001-2009 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. During that time, he did a Pacific tour in China, Japan and Thailand.
“You look at these very salty veterans, these people who’ve been in the heat all over the world, you’re just humbled,” he said.
Under sunny skies, more than a hundred people braved the cold wind and chilly temperature on Saturday to gather around the cenotaph in Millbrook to remember community members who have served in the Canadian and United States military since WWI.
The day began with a mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church followed by a veterans march from the church to the cenotaph located in front of the community’s seniors centre on Willow Street.
Grade 1 students from the Truro Elementary School sang O Canada as well as a portion of the poem, Sma’knis, which means “soldier” in Mi’kmaq. The poem was written by the late Will Basque, a veteran from Eskasoni First Nation, N.S. who served with the US Marine Corps.
Following the playing of the Last Post and two minutes of silence, families laid wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph to remember their loved once who served in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Peacekeeping duty.
Millbrook resident Jane Abram placed a wreath in memory of her husband, Cyril Abram, who served in the Canadian Forces as a peacekeeper.
“Remembering not only Cyril, my husband, but all of the other men who fought in the war,” Abram said following the ceremony.
“I was very proud of that and the sacrifices they made for this country and for us,” she said.
“Largest crowd we’ve had since we started” – Colin Bernard
Colin Bernard, who sits on Millbrook’s Remembrance Day organizing committee, said the attendance for Saturday’s service was the largest he has seen in years.
“This is one of the largest crowd we’ve had since we started,” Bernard said.
The organizing committee, Bernard explained, wanted to have more community involvement in Remembrance Day events this year. As part of that effort, the committee arranged to have banners, each one with a photo of a veteran hung from power poles throughout the community.
The committee also invited children from Millbrook to place flags on the graves of veterans in the local cemetery. A special pin was commissioned to give to people who attended the service this year.
“(The pin) is significant because it has the POW flag, the American flag, the Canadian flag and the Mi’kmaq flag on the pin. Plus, it has the man-in-uniform Sma’knis hieroglyphic,” Bernard said.
“We wanted everybody who came to our ceremony to have a pin to always remember that this is where you got it and come back every year,” he said.
Bernard said he volunteers on the organizing committee to honour his two grandfathers, Sandy Julien and Andrew Bernard, who both served in WWII and came back home to Millbrook following the war.
“My grandfather, Andrew Bernard, he died at a young age. I believe he was significantly impacted because I believe he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had health problems because of that,” Bernard explained.
“My grandfather, Sandy Julien, he lived to be an old man. He died with family and he also instilled in us the importance to remember and honour,” he said.
“I was very proud knowing that they fought to keep us safe here,” Bernard said.
“I hope we continue to have crowds like we did today. It was wonderful to see all the people today,” he said.