While Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country are looking a little different this year thanks to Covid-19, the importance of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom remains as crucial today as it’s ever been.
Long-time Royal Canadian Legion Branch 169 member Darrin Nichol of Rankin Inlet said the legion worked with the hamlet to go ahead with this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
He said the ceremony is scheduled to be held today, Nov. 11, at the Rankin community hall, with a limit of about 100 people in attendance and strict physical distancing being enforced.
“It’s going to be somewhat of a stripped-down ceremony but it’s important that we do hold one in our community,” said Nichol.
“It’s super important to acknowledge, from every era, all the folks who have gone out into the world on behalf of their country with the military, RCMP and other peacekeeping forces.
“They all represented our country well, really, in the defence of freedom and everything we stand for, so it’s been good during the past few years to see attendance at our Remembrance Day ceremony still ticking upwards.”
Nichol said the Second World War happened almost 100 years ago now, and people everywhere may be forgetting just how many Canadians answered the call at that time.
He said many other Canadians have paid the ultimate price for their country during numerous conflicts since the end of the Second World War.
“In fact, we had a young man from Iqaluit, Jordan Anderson, 25, lose his life along with six other Canadians to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on July 4, 2007.
“And we’ve had people from up here who fought in Korea and many others who served with the regular forces in the navy, air force and army — quite a contingent from here, really — and others who have served with the RCMP, and it’s extremely important to acknowledge their dedication and commitment.”
Nichol said he has a family member on his wife’s side, William Green, with deep ties to Arviat and Churchill, Man., who gave his life in the Second World War.
He said Green spent a lot of time trapping around the Arviat region and left behind two daughters, Irene Kablutsiak and Emily Angalik, in Arviat who have also since passed away.
“He fought with Canada and lost his life in the war during a bombing mission with the 432 Air Command out of England, if I recall correctly, over a small community named Marlow, Germany,” said Nichol.
“It’s believed that two Allied aircraft came together in the sky that night. You have to remember that it was pitch black, they didn’t have anywhere near the navigational equipment planes have today, they were being hammered with anti-aircraft fire and that all combined to bring the two planes together in midair.
“When the Red Cross folks got to go in and try to figure out who was who after the fighting, they found 16 people together in one mass grave who had died the night of the raid.
“They interviewed folks from the community and confirmed that two planes had come down at roughly the same time in the same area, so they did their best to sort out the deceased and he was one who they were able to confirm.”
“No one from either plane survived.”
Nichol said the family knows where Green’s body was laid to rest in the Commonwealth Berlin War Cemetery in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg, Germany, which helped ease the pain of his loss a little for some family members.
He said the message of never forgetting those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom appears to still be resonating well with the younger generations, at least in his home community.
“Canada’s changed a lot in the past two decades but the conflicts our country was involved in just can’t be forgotten, of course, and that’s a key job of the legion — to foster remembrance, and advance acknowledgment of the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and all the generations that followed them.
“As time goes on, that messaging remains equally if not more important and I think we’re doing a good job with that. Canada is a much different place today than it was almost 100 years ago when the Second World War was going on but, I think, the messaging is quite reflective of where we want it to be, for sure.
“Here in Rankin, the demand for poppies every year has not diminished at all. There’s a lot more people in the country now, so sometimes it may seem as if not as many people are wearing poppies in honour of Remembrance Day every year now.
“But, speaking directly for our branch and what we’ve seen around here the past few years, the demand for poppies remains equally high if not actually higher today and that’s definitely great to see. The community of Rankin Inlet remembers and, I believe, it always will.”