Thousands pay homage to veterans in Fort Langley

With the events in eastern Canada late last month resonating in many people’s minds, Tuesday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the Fort Langley cenotaph had a different atmosphere from past years.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian reservist, was murdered Wednesday, Oct. 22, while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. That same week, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died in an intentional hit and run in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

For extra security in the wake of these attacks, police presence was noticeable, as thousands gathered at the Fort Langley cemetery to honour veterans, past and present.

Brisk winds pushed trees framing the cenotaph and cradled dry yellow leaves as they fluttered to earth.

It was a picturesque mid-fall day for a  ceremony that started out with just two people and over the past 15 years has grown to more than 4,000.

In 1999, Gordon Gillard, a Second World War veteran who passed away this past June at the age of 90, stood at the Fort Langley Cenotaph on Remembrance Day with Brenda Alberts, wife of former Township Mayor Kurt.

They held their own ceremony, a simple moment of silence for the fallen.

The next year, there was a small ceremony with about 30 people attending.

On Tuesday, emcee Warren Sommer noted that 2,500 programs were printed for this year’s ceremony, with full knowledge that some visitors would have to make due without one.

A procession led by a bagpiper Alexander Janzen and including RCMP officers in red serge, firefighters, veterans, and scouting groups, began at the west end of the cemetery before making its way towards the cenotaph.

Remembrance Day at the Fort included prayers, hymns, the singing of O Canada, Sounding of the Last Post, an Honour Song from Kwantlen First Nation elders and drummers, the Lord’s Prayer, the Act of Homage where official wreaths were laid at the cenotaph, and a fly past from the Fraser Blues vintage aircraft team during a two-minute moment of silence that started at precisely 11 a.m.

In his greeting, Sommer said, “As year follows year, we assemble here to honour those heroic men and women who made the supreme sacrifice to ensure that we, who survive, and generations to come, might live in peace and be free to pursue, within the boundaries of decency, law and order, a way of life each one of us may choose. Many others have died since their active day of service in wartime, and today we remember them, too.”

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