A parade of local dignitaries and a contingent from C Battery, #1 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, CFB Shilo paraded down Wellington St. on an unseasonably mild Nov. 11 morning, signalling the start of the annual Remembrance Day Service. Once again, citizens of Virden gathered at the Aud Theatre to pay tribute to those who gave their lives in the two World Wars, the Korean War and the Afghanistan conflict, and those who continue to serve in peacekeeping missions worldwide.
“We remember, and we give thanks for all who have served and are presently serving,” said Rev. Fr. Matt Koovisk, who presided over the service. “But of course we especially honour those who paid the supreme sacrifice.”
Koovisk, Rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Church and Padre of the Virden Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, introduced the guest speaker, Marc Savy.
During his presentation, Savy highlighted his tenure in the British Army and recalled the personal challenges he had in re-integrating into civilian life in Canada after he left military service in 1990.
“I missed the comradeship and someone always having my back,” he said. “It didn’t matter where you were or what you sere doing there was always someone there.”
Savy took up a policing career in 1992 and served until his retirement from the Brandon Police Service in Jan. of 2020. He currently fulfills three roles – Deputy Mayor of the Town of Virden, Co-coordinator of the Westman Emergency Group and Sergeant-at-Arms of Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 8.
“I still found I needed to serve the public in some way, so entered into municipal politics,” he said.
During his presentation, Savy, shared some personal reflections on the meaning of remembrance. At a young age, his grandfather served as a Royal engineer in World War Two.
“When I was growing up in the Seychelles, it was a British colony,” he said. “I remember last names of my friends’ parents and grandparents who have served being read out at the services and not really understanding why. When you live in paradise, the reasons why didn’t matter. Some of the stories he relayed to me…I can’t imagine being that age at 16, and being sent to the front lines in Europe, knowing that the chances of survival are almost impossible.”
He asked those in attendance to remember the sacrifices that were, are and have been made by young mem and women throughout the world.
Savy said that for those who did make it home, there are often tinges of survivor’s guilt well into the future and a different perspective on the world.
“I do remember and I do feel guilty that I was fortunate enough to have survived,” he said.
“For most vets, this time of year is like every other day, week, month, year or decade. We won’t soon forget the sacrifices that have been made by those who have served and those that are currently serving. We view the world differently and we see things differently, even after all those years.”
Savy had heartfelt words of advice for the audience.
“If you want to experience some of this difference, sit down at a table with some vets or some current serving members and just listen… don’t judge, and try to imagine yourself in their shoes like I did for my grandfather when he was 16 years old.
“We should not forget. The vets will not forget and we need to educate our children and grandchildren about the importance of remembrance and all that it stands for so future generations do not forget.”
The 2023 Remembrance Day Service was a bittersweet one for Koovisk, who after seven years is relocating to Chilliwack, B.C. to take up a new position in early 2024.
“It’s been an honour and a joy to be the padre to this Legion,” he concluded.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, the Town of Virden, RM of Wallace-Woodworth, #1 RCHA, RCMP, Royal Canadian Legion Virden Branch No. 8, Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary, Wallace District Fire Department, First Virden Scouts, Girl Guides, Virden Lions Club, Virden Royal Purple and the Southwest Assiniboine Chapter of Retired Teachers Association.
Music was provided by The Virden Collegiate Institute Concert Band, with the Last Post and Reveille played by trumpeter Michelle Gervin.
Following the service, those in attendance were invited to retire their poppies and place them on a table in the foyer of the Theatre, symbolic of an annual custom at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Participants were then invited to the Legion Hall for lunch and fellowship.