© Times-Herald photo by Nathan Liewicki
Lloyd Meier (left), president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Moose Jaw, and Bret Lafond, past president of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada, prepare to lay a wreath honouring fallen members of the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Decoration Day at Crescent Park on Sunday.
Declaration Day dates back to 1866
Decoration Day is an even more steeped Canadian tradition than Remembrance Day.
Battles fought from 1899 to the present day are remembered annually on Nov. 11, but Decoration Day has recognized veterans of Canada’s military since 1866.
On Sunday afternoon, military members, politicians and community members gathered around the cenotaph in Crescent Park to pay their respects to Canadians who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country – during a conflict and in peacetime.
“As a retired veteran of the Canadian Forces, and someone who served both in Europe and the Middle East, it means a lot to me to recognize all of those who served in the Canadian Forces and laid down their lives for our freedom,” said Lloyd Meier, president of the local Royal Canadian Legion branch.
“Declaration Day goes as far back as the Battle of Ridgeway.”
Canada’s first modern battle fought exclusively by Canadian troops and officers, the Battle of Ridgeway became a rallying cry for military men who fought in it. On June 2, 1890, the first Decoration Day took place after the federal government did not acknowledge, honour, decorate, or award medals and pensions to those who served in the defence of Canada in 1866.
Nearly 125 years later, it has grown to include all fallen members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), including veterans who recently fought and died in Afghanistan.
Meier told the Times-Herald it is important that members of the CAF who lost their lives get the recognition they deserve.
“For me it’s a very solemn moment,” said Meier. “What’s going through my mind are our Afghan veterans and our fallen comrades from that conflict.”
Earlier Sunday, a small ceremony at Sunset Cemetery took place, in which the graves of fallen military personnel were tidied and given their respects. A flag was also raised at Sunset, as it was at Rosedale Cemetery.
Bret Lafond, a past president of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada also attended Decoration Day.
A former member of the air force, Lafond was stationed in Germany and France following the end of the Second World War.
“I saw the destruction that was still there 10 years after the war,” something he said he is reminded of on Decoration Day.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks