Veteran Albert Swash was so grateful to receive a hand-written note from students at Meadowridge School last Remembrance Day, that he put pen to paper in reply.
“I want to thank you for remembering all of the brave service men – army, navy, and air force – who scarified their lives so that we can live in peace,” he wrote back to the kids.
Swash was one of 60 senior care home resident who received a note of appreciation from the kids.
The note was part of a national Postcards for Peace initiative being organized by Veterans Affair Canada. Last year, the local private school – under the guidance of middle-grade teacher Leona West – chose to participate, with five dozen students writing messages for local veterans.
“I realized that we had many elderly people and veterans in Maple Ridge itself living in various retirement communities,” West said, noting how this brought her lesson full circle about the human freedoms we enjoy and those who fought to preserve it.
“I thought it might be nicer to have our community members receive acknowledgment and thanks from students living among them,” West explained of the project where kids crafted personal messages to the community elders.
For Swash, he admitted to being moved by the gesture.
“It made me proud that you remembered us.… your cards of remembrance will take pride of place in my apartment, and in my heart,” Swash said.
It was his reaction, and the buy-in of the kids that motivated the expansion of the postcard project at Meadowridge this year, said fellow teacher and co-organizer Charles Schofield.
This year, the program has expanded to involve some 350 students, between Grades 4 and 12, who will be writing personal messages to veterans on the back of the provided postcards.
“Hopefully we can deliver even more to members of our community this year,” West said.
She was especially moved to see more teachers jump on board the project for Remembrance Day 2020, helping “ensure that our vets are not forgotten, especially in these very isolating times,” she said.
West’s interest in Remembrance Day is a personal one. Her father was Second World War vet who survived four years at sea in the North Atlantic.
“He rarely spoke about what he experienced (other than after a few too many scotches on occasion),” she recalled.
“But, we attended every Remembrance Day ceremony in Edmonton and paid our respects to the fallen. It was moving and heartbreaking to see my dad march past with all the other vets of various conflict; as I got older and had more friends from various countries, I realized how critical a document our Charter of Rights and Freedoms really is. It’s important to me to continue to acknowledge the sacrifice and the hardships of both vets and those who lost loved ones,” she said.
The postcards are just one facet of a school-wide week of Remembrance, culminating with a virtual assembly this Friday. The 45-minute school tribute will feature a colour party and procession, a piper, laying of wreaths, remarks from a local veteran, a musical tribute, video presentations, and a moment of silence.