Residents of the Veterans Unit at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre (WRC) in Regina are observing Remembrance Day a little differently this year.
Ordinarily, they would gather with family, friends and the community to participate in services and other events. This year, one of the main activities they’re taking part in is the Virtual Candlelight Tribute. The event is organized by Veterans Affairs Canada as part of Veterans’ Week festivities from Nov. 5-11.
George Trithart participates in candlelight tribute organized by Veterans Affairs Canada.
“It’s a national effort to recognize veterans in a significant way,” said Amanda Schenstead, a music therapist with the Veterans and Extended Care Program at WRC. Veterans from across the country, as well as a number of youth and still serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, have been invited to take part.
Each participant is filmed holding a candle and passing it to their right. Veterans Affairs staff has spliced a handful of the videos together into a powerful video tribute where each veteran appears to hand off a candle to a young person or Armed Forces member. Because of the large volume of video clips received, those veterans who aren’t included in the initial tribute will be part of a second video planned to be posted to the Canada Remembers site in the near future.
Frank Ries and participates in candlelight tribute organized by Veterans Affairs Canada.
“When we remember those who have passed on, we might think of them as a light,” said Schenstead. “The ceremony symbolizes passing the light of those who have passed on to those who are still with us as an act of remembrance.
Schenstead and Chantelle Erdman, a recreation therapist also with the Veterans and Extended Care Program, facilitated the filming at WRC. Fourteen of WRC’s 16 veterans took part.
“Remembrance Day is an important part of the year,” said Schenstead. “It means a lot to the veterans to be acknowledged for what they do.”
Added Erdman, “We want our veterans to be remembered because of everything they have done for us.”
The Virtual Candlelight Tribute can be watched on the
Canada Remembers Facebook page.
Why remembering matters
Three families of veterans living at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre shared why Remembrance Day and events like the Virtual Candlelight Tribute matter so much to them.
Joetta Seiferling, niece of Joseph Sieferling, Second World War veteran
“The symbolism (of the candlelight tribute) is so powerful and relevant in today’s world. During the past year, we as individuals think our fight against COVID-19 is the most significant upheaval we will ever endure in our lives. It pales in the duration and the sacrifices made by the men and women who lost their lives, families who lost their sons and daughters (in conflicts) and those who returned home, changed from their experience. The candle is now passed to the next generation to continue the fight for freedom, in whatever future form it may take and to always remember those who gallantly and selflessly fought before us.”
Joseph Seiferling, right, photographed with fellow veteran Gerald Dreycott, is a veteran of the Second World War. Both reside at WRC.
Sandra Noel, daughter of Ken Reeves, Second World War veteran
“For as long as I can remember, Dad has taken part in or attended the annual Remembrance Day Service. When I was a kid and right up until I finished school, the children of the Legion members went door to door in our small town selling poppies. It was great fun, although in my teen years, I didn’t feel very ‘cool’ wearing Dad’s Legion beret! I was so pleased when I was told about the virtual veterans’ Remembrance Day Candlelight Tribute and that veterans like dad would be given the opportunity to take part. This is such a meaningful way to honour our veterans.”
Ken Reeves, a resident of WRC, is a veteran of the Second World War.
Pam Busby, daughter, and Tim Cowan, son, of Ian Cowan, Royal Canadian Navy member
“This year has been a dark one for all Canadians, but certainly one of the darkest in recent memory for veterans in care homes who are separated from their families and friends as they wage yet another war – against loneliness, isolation and an unseen enemy – the COVID-19 virus. Despite excellent care provided by Unit 3-5 staff at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre and Veterans Affairs, our father is among those who are confused and upset by the lack of family contact and the inability to leave his care home. However, due to the efforts of Unit 3-5 staff at Wascana and Veterans Affairs, this Remembrance Day will shine a little brighter with the Virtual Candlelight Tribute. Our family thanks those involved in recognizing our veterans with this memorable and touching tribute. It's important we remember those who made our lives today possible.”
Ian Cowan, a resident of WRC, served in the Royal Canadian Navy.