Veterans and service members joined Yaqan Nukiy School students in a ceremony of song and reflection on Nov. 8 to honour Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) veterans at St. Peter’s Cemetery.
The event was initiated by No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation, a national initiative based in Edmonton, Alta., which has the dual goal of honouring fallen military members and educating students by placing poppies at their headstone each November.
“It’s important that they understand the sacrifice people made,” said Don Leben, Creston co-ordinator for No Stone Left Alone. “We think of people who died in combat overseas, but there are also people who came back and lived with their horrors. … They gave up part of their life defending their country. It’s a way of life they were defending, not necessarily the land space of Canada.”
The ceremony, MCed by Yaqan Nukiy teacher Devan Coward, included the school choir singing O Canada and In Flanders Fields, LKB Chief Jason Louie singing Eagle Staff Song and the Grade 3 class reciting a poem, Ode of Remembrance. Members of Trail’s 39th Engineering Regiment, Creston’s Royal Canadian Legion, Bonners Ferry’s American Legion and Bonners Ferry’s Veterans of Foreign Wars took part in the march on and march off of the colours.
“They (the school) organize it as to the content, and I put a few touches to it—the military flair, shall we say,” said Leben.
The ceremony was followed by veterans laying wreaths to honour at least seven veterans buried in unmarked graves, and the students placing poppies on the graves of four known soldiers, including one, Louis Stone, who served in the First World War.
Leben was an Air Force pilot and is easily recognizable as the longtime MC of the Creston Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremony. He now has a grandson serving in the military and is a fourth-generation serviceman himself.
“It’s important to me because of my military background,” he said. “It’s a family calling.”
Louie, who served in the Canadian Army, said that Remembrance Day is particularly important in First Nations communities.
“What a lot of people don’t realize about indigenous people is that when they served, they weren’t citizens,” he said. “When they were finished, there were no benefits. They were second-class citizens, and some died in that state.”
Even so, that didn’t stop some — including a few from the LKB — from crossing national boundaries to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
“Natives were exempt from the draft, but they still answered the call,” he said.