Students honour veterans at gravesites

HUMBOLDT — Thirty students are getting a unique opportunity to recognize Humboldt veterans this November.

Thanks to teacher Robyn Moore, the Humboldt Public School (HPS) Grade 7 students took part in a No Stone Left Alone ceremony at the Humboldt Public Cemetery and the St. Augustine Cemetery on Nov. 4 and 5, placing poppies on the graves of veterans.

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This unique ceremony, “provides students and youth with an authentic experience that creates knowledge, understanding and appreciation of those who serve and of the sacrifice of Canada’s fallen,” their website said.

Moore discovered the program a year ago on social media and saw it as an engaging way to discuss Remembrance Day with her students.

“It was just a really unique opportunity to have students engaged in honouring our veterans and learning about our military, both in the past and present.”

Moore said she was blindsided by how important Remembrance Day already was to her students, even ones that she thought would be reluctant to take part. It has been humbling, she said, to bring the No Stone Left Alone service to Humboldt and see her students honouring veterans.

It’s their job now, she said.

“They are the next generation and they need to take the lead.”

With the loss of more and more Second World War veterans and the memory of Afghanistan growing more distant, this is becoming more difficult for young people to connect with veterans or Remembrance Day services, Moore said. November is an important time to reflect on how fortunate all Canadians are, she said.

While this year’s ceremony was small, with students joined by members of the Humboldt Legion Branch #28 who also supplied the poppies and wreaths, Moore hopes to expand the program even within the Humboldt community, maybe one day with all grade seven students from all three Humboldt elementary schools joining in to recognize veterans in this way.

People don’t realize how many veterans there are buried in Humboldt, and they are surprised on days like Decoration Day in June, where everyone is welcome to put Canada flags on all the veteran graves, said Niki Sokolan, the president of Humboldt Legion Branch 28

Looking into the ceremony, Sokolan and other Legion members were all too happy to help the initiative, she said.

“They can connect with it easier than someone standing up and talking about stuff and listing off numbers...we can look facts up all day, but let’s do some honest work and show our appreciation.”

While No Stone Left Alone honours veterans through Canadian school children, in no way is it a replacement for Remembrance Day, Moore said.

Maureen Bianchini-Purvis started the program in 2011, “in recognition of the sacrifice of the Canadian men and women who have lost their lives in the service of peace, at home and abroad,” said the No Stone Left Alone website.

This includes Bianchini-Purvis’ mother, a veteran who died when Bianchini-Purvis was 12 years old, and, at the time, asked her young daughter not to forget her on Armistice Day. Bianchini-Purvis has placed a poppy on her mother’s grave ever since, and later, with the help of her daughters and contact with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of Education, ensured that other veterans in the Beechmount Cemetery in Edmonton received the same honour.

The program has since expanded and in 2018, the No Stone Left Alone program saw 9,236 students visit 105 cemeteries to honour 58,941 CAF members across the country, reports their website.

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