Threatening rain held off Saturday morning as hundreds gathered at Sullivans Pond in Dartmouth to remember those who fought and died for Canada and its citzens’ freedom.
“It has been often said that there is no soldier who does not want peace,” said Tom Young, chairman of the Nova Scotia Nunavut Command of the Royal Canadian Legion and MC for the Remembrance Day ceremony, one of dozens held across the province.
“True peace can only be born from acceptance and respect for each other no matter the differences,” Young said. “In our every day lives, let’s each of us be that true peace. … May we never forget the sacrifices made for our peace and for our freedom.”
Young said there are 68,000 active personnel in the Canadian armed forces, 27,000 serving in the reserves and 3,600 Canadian soldiers deployed overseas in multiple operations.
Young recounted a rich military presence of Nova Scotia soldiers dating back hundreds of year and including anniversaries this year of 80 years since the Korean armistice, 75 years of United Nations peacekeeping, the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve and the 150th anniversary of the RCMP.
“Many of our finest have signed on the dotted line to say they would give everything they had, their lives, in order for the rest of us to be free,” said Young.
“As we stand in silence here this morning, let’s reflect on the many thousands of our young men and women who did give the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”
A young woman who wanted to be identified only as Sarah arrived early for the ceremony.
“Both of my grandfathers were military, my great-grandfather served, I am here to pay respects,” she said.
She attends every year but doesn’t judge others of her age or any age who choose not to attend.
“I think that’s a personal choice,” she said. “I like to come. Usually here, it’s just the closest area.”
The main provincial Remembrance Day ceremony is usually held at the Grand Parade in Halifax but the legion announced last month that it would be moved to picturesque Sullivans Pond this year because of the homeless people encamped on the parade square and in front of Halifax City Hall.
Among those laying wreaths in Dartmouth on Saturday in succession after Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc was Danita Curwin, who presented a Memorial Cross of Canada wreath in loving memory of her son, Pte. John Curwin, who was killed in action on Dec. 13, 2008, just west of Kandahar City in Afghanistan.
Pte. Curwin was described in the Remembrance Day program as attending school, playing sports and marrying his high school sweetheart, Laura Mae, in his home community of Mount Uniacke, where he lived most of his life.
Born in 1982 to parents Michael and Danita Curwin, Pte. Curwin joined the armed forces in 2006 as an infantry soldier and, having completed training, was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Canada at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.
He deployed to Afghanistan in August 2008.
On the morning of Dec. 13, 2008, Curwin and three other members of his company were sent to investigate a report of a suspicious object having been planted on the highway west of Kandahar City.
“While carrying out this task, their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED),” the program reads. “Pte. Curwin, Corp. Thomas Hamilton (from Upper Musquodoboit) and Pte. Justin Peter were immediately killed in the blast.”
They were three of 159 Canadian soldiers kileld during the war in Afghanistan.
Craig Hood, who served with Curran in Afghanistan and who is now the executive director of Nova Scotia Nunavut Command, accompanied Danita Curwin in laying the wreath.
Pte. Curwin rests at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Lower Sackville, and in 2018, the community of Mount Uniacke dedicated a plaque and planted three red maple trees in his memory in a community park.
Wreathes were laid at the cenotaph Saturday by Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher on behalf of the Canadian government, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA Barbara Adams, the minister of Seniors and Long-term Care, representing the provincial government, Dartmouth MLAs Claudia Chender and Susan Leblanc on behalf of the Nova Scotia legislature, HRM Mayor Mike Savage, Rear-Admiral Josee Kurtz, representing the Maritime Forces Atlantic, and many others.
A military helicopter flew past Sullivans Pond during the ceremony.
This year’s service marked the 95th anniversary of Dartmouth’s Somme Branch Legion and legion members marched to the cenotaph before the ceremony and the parade that led into the event.
The foot bridge entering the park by Sullivans Pond was fully decorated with poppies hand-crafted by residents, family and community volunteers of the Oakwood Terrace nursing home in Dartmouth.
Across the harbour, the Halifax Rifles returned to the Halifax Common, where the historic army unit had trained and served before deployments and mobilization efforts in past war efforts.
The Rifles regimental unit paraded again on the Common on Saturday in a symbolic return to the grounds of its former headquarters and home, the Halifax Armoury.
In recent years, the Rifles have been operating from Windsor Park while the Armoury has undergone extensive restoration efforts.