February 20th, 2020

Local students learn to remember

By JEREMY APPEL on November 9, 2019.

Students at Vincent Massey School had the opportunity to meet Second World War veteran Pte. Bob Pearce. Also pictured are principal Andrew McFetridge (far left), who's also Pearce's grandson-in-law, and vice principal Stacey McBain (far right).--SUBMITTED PHOTO


Connaught School’s Friday Remembrance Day assembly included several musical numbers and talks from two veterans – one in person from CFB Suffield and another pre-recorded from Ottawa.

Sgt. Anthony Yashuk, who addressed the students in the flesh, told the News it’s crucial for the younger generation to learn about the military’s sacrifices.

“For a lot of young ones, they don’t know. Most people have never experienced going overseas,” said Yashuk. “It’s important for them to see the bigger picture of what’s going on in the world so they can try to make it a better place.”

He says in teaching the youth to honour the sacrifices of veterans – both living and deceased – they can work to forge a better future for everyone.

“The end goal of every veteran is to never have war again, is to stop that, but sometimes it is a necessity, and we have to put everything we can to accomplishing our mission and making the world a better, happier place,” said Yashuk.

Connaught music instructor Sara Neufeld came across the assembly’s other veteran speaker when she was searching for a song for her students to sing at the assembly while other students placed paper wreathes on the stage.

She was looking specifically for a French song, as Connaught is in its first year as a French immersion school. Since French isn’t her first language, Neufeld reached out to its composer to ensure she fully grasped its meaning.

The track – titled “jour du souvenir” – was written in honour of Sgt. Chris Downey, who hails from Cold Lake but resides in Ottawa. He was unable to attend in person because his wife is expecting a child, so Neufeld sent him questions from the students, which he answered in a pre-recorded video showed at the assembly.

Downey was “severely injured” in an IED attack in Afghanistan, which killed his friend he served alongside, the teacher said.

Neufeld said she told the students Downey would respond to their questions via email, so they didn’t anticipate seeing him on screen during the assembly.

“I wanted to keep it a secret from the students, so it would be a bit of a surprise,” she said.

Naturally, Connaught wasn’t the only school that held a Remembrance Day assembly Friday.

Students at Vincent Massey School had the opportunity to meet one of the few remaining Second World War veterans in the Hat, Pte. Bob Pearce.

Principal Andrew McFetridge introduced Pearce, who also happens to be his grandfather-in-law.

“When I asked him why he volunteered to serve at war, he simply said that he wanted to, and he felt that him serving was also important to his father,” McFetridge said.

Pearce’s father, Roland, had served in the First World War, he added.

McFetridge relayed another time he spent with his grandfather-in-law, when they were looking at family photos on his wall.

“I was looking at all of these pictures for a minute or two, then I noticed Bob behind me watching me look at all of these individuals in the family,” said McFetridge.

“He then said with a wide smile on his face, ‘You’re looking at why I volunteered for the war.'”

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