For another year, motorcyclists taking in the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby made the trek to Hebron, Yarmouth County, in a memorial ride that included a ceremony at the Afghanistan monument at Maple Grove Education Centre.
Flags flapped in the wind as members of the Maple Grove and Yarmouth High Memorial Club formed an honour guard along the sides of the school driveway.
Then – and you could hear them before you saw them – a steady stream of motorcycles arrived.
The Memorial Club conducted part of the ceremony, which included the national anthem, songs and the reading of a poem and the club’s pledge.
This ride – the fifth year for the initiative involving the Wharf Rat Rally and the Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit – also commemorates Master Cpl. Darren Williams, who founded the Digby-to-Hebron memorial ride. He and Major (ret.) Edgar Wayne Boone were killed in a 2015 accident in Trenton, Ontario, after a vehicle crossed into their lane and collided with their motorcycles.
Yarmouth resident Joe Paquette, who helps to organize these memorial rides, spoke fondly of both men during the Sept. 2 ceremony. Throughout the ceremony there was also much recognition directed towards the Memorial Club and its efforts to honour veterans and remember fallen soldiers.
West Nova MP Colin Fraser was invited to speak about his private members bill C3-11. The bill has passed through the House of Commons and is before the Senate. The Bill looks to amend the Holidays Act insofar as Remembrance Day is concerned. “The bill is a measure to enhance the prominence of Remembrance Day in our country, which I think is long overdue,” Fraser said, calling it a solemn day of remembrance and one that everyone should have the ability to take part in.
The event was also a day of remembrance for the lives lost in wars and conflicts and for those whose battles continue daily.
Another speaker was Bob Grundy, the founder of Rally Point Retreat in Sable River, Shelburne County. The retreat offers veterans and first responders suffering through the collateral damage of traumatic events a quiet, safe and relaxing environment. PTSD, Grundy said, should never be fought alone.
“Too frequently people are still staying in their basements in the dark thinking they are alone. They are not alone,” he said. “These guys have all served. They serve on the streets. They serve at night. They serve at day. They serve overseas and they serve at home. They should not be feeling that they have met something that they cannot overtake themselves. We are a large family. We need to take care of all of our brothers and sisters.”
Wreaths were laid at the Afghanistan monument. After he laid a wreath on behalf of the Canadian Army Veterans (CAV) Motorcycle Unit, CAV ambassador Trapper Cane went down on one knee and reached out, letting his hand skim some of the many names on the monument.
Later, addressing the crowd, he spoke of bittersweet moments that families go through, when their sons and daughters grow up and decide to put on a uniform to serve others.
“Sweet in pride, bitter in the knowledge that sometimes it means they’re not going to come back the same, whether they’re soldiers, sailor, aircrew, police, firefighter or EMS. People who put on a uniform to serve others put themselves in harm’s way and often carry a weight that stays with them forever,” he said.
But not everyone comes home, he added, motioning towards the names on the Afghanistan monument.
“Carved in stone. Carved in our hearts,” he said. “We will never forget them.”