Remembrance a sombre duty

Poppy presentation 2019
Todd Rorke, President of Cold Lake Royal Canadian Legion Branch 211, pins a Remembrance Day poppy on Acting 4 Wing Commander LCol Alain Gagnon in a meeting at City Hall. Photo: Avr Brock Curtis

Cliff Kenyon

Remembrance Day reminds Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members of the pride they share in the life they have chosen.

“I’m always proud, being in the armed forces,” says 4 Wing Cold Lake Acting Wing Commander LCol Alain Gagnon.

He has even more reason to be proud this Remembrance Day. As Acting Wing Commander he was the first at 4 Wing to receive a poppy, pinned on by Todd Rorke, President of the Royal Canadian Legion Cold Lake Branch 211.

And Gagnon will be Parade Commander for Remembrance Day ceremonies held at the Cold Lake Energy Centre.

“I’m really proud to be the Parade Commander,” said Gagnon.

It’s not just an honorary position. He leads the parade and ensures ceremonies go smoothly.

“Once we are assembled I give all the commands,” he said. “It has to go smoothly.”

Gagnon remembers the first Remembrance Day ceremony he attended as a cadet in 1994 at his hometown in Quebec clutching his trombone as a member of the band.

“I’ve never missed a Remembrance Day since. In 1994, I wasn’t expecting it to lead me in this position.”

He said members of 4 Wing have been busy preparing for Remembrance Day, with many volunteers making visits to local schools to talk about the significance of the day.

“It’s so very important to remember. There were so many sacrifices in two world wars amongst other wars where everything fell into chaos. If we don’t remember them, we are bound to repeat history.”

“I’m always looking forward to Remembrance Day to act as a reminder.”

One tip, if you plan to attend ceremonies at the Energy Centre on Nov. 11: Arrive early, says Rorke, president of Cold Lake Royal Canadian Legion Branch 211. Car pooling is suggested to avoid congestion at the end of the ceremonies.

It’s a huge event for both the local Legion and the City of Cold Lake held in the main arena, the red arena, attracting between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

Rorke said spectators are to be seated by 10:30 a.m. with ceremonies beginning at 10:45 when troops will be marched in. Revelry is played and wreaths laid by government and local business representatives as well as individuals.

“It’s our biggest day of the year,” said Rorke. “It’s a good time to pay our respects. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have the rights and privileges we enjoy today.”

Rorke was in the military for 34 years, 29 of them posted at 4 Wing Cold Lake as an air weapons technician and then retired here.

“Cold Lake definitely grows on you,” he said.

The local Legion has about 500 members and they are active throughout the year.

“We support all the local groups in the city such as scouts, cadets and minor hockey.”

The poppy campaign raises funds annually for the Legion.

“We are also busy throughout the year looking after our local veterans.”

The Legion offers support to military members facing retirement as well as those already retired.

“We go to bat for them,” says Rorke.

The Legion also organizes a variety of social functions through the year to raise funds. They host a weekly Friday steak night which is open to the public.

Also, Cold Lake Scouts will be holding Remembrance Day services at the cenotaph in Cold Lake North.

And on Nov. 8, Northern Lights School division public schools will be holding Remembrance Day services at schools throughout the region. Most services begin at 10 a.m. and all are open to the public.