Carter Fisher skipped his swimming lesson to help clean veterans headstones at the Murrayville cemetery on Saturday, Nov. 5.
As the nine-year-old carefully scrubbed grime from a granite grave marker, his mom, Nicole, explained how Carter’s great grandfather, Stanley Fleming, was a pilot with the RCAF.
“He left England when he was 16, to fight for Canada,” Nicole Fisher said.
Four scout groups took part in the annual pre-Remembrance Day event in Murrayville, bringing the number of participants to 30.
It was the highest turnout yet for the annual event, said Alexis Parks, Second Langley Mavericks troop leader.
“The first four years, it has just been our own troop,” she told the Langley Advance Times.
Kirby Adams, a member of the Murrayville Remembrance Day committee, welcomed the young volunteer cleaners.
“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all of you for coming in today,” Adams told them. “It’s because of people like you, these ceremonies carry on in respect of our veterans.”
One of the adult volunteers, Jeff Knoblauch, tended to a few isolated veterans headstones in a side lot of the cemetery.
“There’s a few over here that kind of get forgotten,” Knoblauch remarked.
Lucas Parks, 12, was glad to pitch in.
“I just think that this is nice, cleaning the headstones,” Parks said.
Scouts and Guides were also at work on Saturday at the Fort Langley cenotaph, where, for the sixth year in a row, scouts from the First Walnut Grove, First Fort Langley, and First Willoughby scout troops were tending to veterans graves with gentle applications of soap and water, cleaning cloths, and toothbrushes, while others were raking up leaves in advance of the Nov. 11 Remembrance Day service.
This year, they were joined by two Girl Guide districts, about 50 youth in total, what Scout leader Jonathan Meads, whose troop began the tradition, described as “fantastic.”
It was good to be “getting beyond COVID,” Meads remarked.
“[It’s great] being able to reach everybody again. Everybody hunkered down [during the pandemic]. And now we’ve been able to reach out and everybody’s on board with getting back out and doing things in the community.”
It was the first time the Second Willoughby Girl Guides had taken part, and guider Danielle Karman was beaming.
“I love it,” Karman told the Langley Advance Times.
“These poor girls have had such severe restrictions [during the pandemic]. One thing we’ve been trying to do is get them outdoors and out into the community.”
Gavin McLean did some research before he arrived at the Fort Langley cemetery to make sure he understood the different abbreviations on the headstones, like RCN VR (Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve).
McLean’s interest in history was recognized when he was left the medals of his great-grandfather, Raymond St. Claire Swinimer, who had served in both the navy and air force.
“Why did they pick me?” McLean remembers wondering when he found out about the medals, but his mother Shauneen called it “fitting,” given her son’s interest in history.
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