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“It is so easy to forget, but we try to keep our memories clear”

November 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

“What do they say? Old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.”

These were the poignant words shared by 96-year-old Carl Bedal as he waited for a very different kind of Remembrance Day observance to get underway at the Aurora Cenotaph last Wednesday morning.

Remembrance Day is often a very busy day for the Naval veteran of the Second World War.

A frequent speaker at local schools to teach up-and-coming generations about the realities of conflict, he has spent the last few years at special services held at the nearby Rick Hansen Public School alongside his fellow veterans residing at Chartwell Hollandview Trail.

As these services were cancelled to outside guests this year due to the global pandemic, Mr. Bedal joined a number of his fellow veterans at the Aurora Cenotaph for a very different kind of ceremony reflecting our current reality.

Hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion, the local service was open to 25 invited guests with the public encouraged to watch proceedings from home via live-streaming. With a number of wreaths pre-laid at the War Memorial by Legion members, invited guests including local MPs Leona Alleslev and Tony Van Bynen, MPP Christine Elliott, and Mayor Tom Mrakas, stood in assigned places on the Peace Park lawn waiting for their turn to pay tribute to the fallen.

As they assembled, Mr. Bedal was in a reflective mood.

“I am glad to see these traditions carry on,” he said. “It is one way that we remember the past.”

Before heading out for the commemorations, he stopped to look at a photograph included in a special display curated by staff at his residence.

“There were 21 of us,” he says of his fellow veterans in the photo. “There are now seven. That’s the way it goes with us. What do they say? Old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.”

Fortunately, Mr. Bedal is showing no signs of simply fading away.

Rather than going back to the Legion for the traditional Remembrance Day lunch, another casualty of the pandemic, his afternoon was booked for a remote talk with GTA students.

“I am going out to a school via Skype, so it is possible [to reach students this time of year], but it is not easy to do that,” he shared. “What I want them to remember is we lost a lot of young men and women in that war and we don’t want them forgotten. There is no glory to war anymore. It is a dreadful thing. They might as well know the reality of that. That is the important thing – it is so easy to forget. So easy. But we’ll try to keep our memories clear enough.”

As she prepared her wreath, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP Leona Alleslev was doing the same.

A retired member of the Royal Canadian Air Force herself, Remembrance Day is an occasion which has personal and immediate resonance.

“Obviously, this is challenging because we, as a community, want to Remember together, and the act of Remembrance is something we do in the company of others as much as we do on our own,” she shared. “That is a significant piece that is missing [this year] but it doesn’t in any way diminish the importance and the necessity of the act of Remembrance. We can all keep those who served and all those who do serve for the freedom in our hearts and take a moment to pause and reflect.”

Ms. Alleslev said she was going to particularly reflect on the life of Navy Lt. Chris Saunders who served on HMCS Chicoutimi. A friend of hers, he was on the minds of many as his mother represented generations of parents in Ottawa as this year’s Silver Cross Mother.

“I think the most important part of our act of Remembrance is not only remembering what they fought and died for, but to protect and preserve it because it was a gift that they gave us and it is now our responsibility to hold the torch high and to protect and preserve those freedoms, democracy, our way of life for the next generation,” said Ms. Alleslev. “It is easy to forget when we’re in times of peace, but peace is fragile and we must be vigilant or we risk losing it.”

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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