KAMSACK — Members of the Kamsack branch of the Royal Canadian Legion celebrated the fact that they, “after a very long three years,” were able to return to enjoying an evening of fellowship while remembering fallen veterans on Remembrance Day.
Karen Tourangeau, Legion branch president, welcomed everyone to the banquet at the Legion Hall on Nov. 11 for the first time since the branch was forced “to close its doors due to the health crisis in the world that affected us here as well.”
During the banquet, a trumpet that had been played at Legion events for five decades and the bell that had been a part of the HMCS Kamsack corvette were presented to the Legion branch, and a Legionnaire of the Year was named.
Presenting the trumpet that had belonged to her late husband, Paul Ratushny, Margaret Ratushny, a long-time member of the Legion, thanked the group for honouring her husband and said that the trumpet, and playing it for Legion functions, had been a large part of her husband’s life.
Speaking on behalf of the Hiawatha Chapter of the Eastern Star at Kamsack, Susan Bear explained how during the Second World War, the members of the Eastern Star had “adopted” the crew on board the HMCS Kamsack and provided them with supplies including treats, knitted items and a much-appreciated and rare washing machine. In thanks, when the corvette had been decommissioned, the crew arranged for the ship’s bell to be donated to the Eastern Star, which had custody of it.
But because the Chapter was forced to close earlier this year, Bear said that arrangements were being made to transfer custody of the bell to the Legion branch, along with a plaque and navy cap.
Explaining that the Legionnaire of the Year award goes to a Legion member who sets an example of volunteer activities and helps run the Legion, Tourangeau announced that this year the recipient of the award was Karen Bodnaryk.
“There’s a lot of work that’s involved with maintaining the Legion, both inside and out,” Tourangeau said. “A lot of time and physical labour is required.
“Over the winter months she’s been attending to make sure the furnace is working and she knows who to call when something goes amiss,” she said of Bodnaryk. “She’s been looking after the rentals and clean-ups and even has been cutting the grass.
After the banquet of roast beef and ham, with salad, vegetables, cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes was served and enjoyed, cadet F/Cpl. Macy Martinuik made a toast to the fallen soldiers and explained the significance of “the missing man table” set immediately in front of the speaker’s podium.
It is a small table set for one, symbolizing the isolation of the absent service member, Martinuik said. It contains a white tablecloth to symbolize the pure intentions of the service members who responded to the country's call to arms.
It has a single rose in the vase symbolizing the blood that service members have shed in sacrifice and represents the family and friends who keep the faith while awaiting the return of the missing service members.
A red ribbon represents a love of country that inspired the service members to serve the country, she explained. A slice of lemon on the bread plate represents the bitter fate of the missing, salt sprinkled on the bread plate symbolizes the tears shed by waiting families, an inverted glass represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake, a lit candle symbolizes a light of hope that lives in hearts to illuminate the missing's way home, and an empty chair represents the absence of the missing and fallen.
Tourangeau introduced the head table guests: Rev. Stephen and Betty Ruten; Mayor Nancy and Russell Brunt; Margaret Ratushny, and Susan and Doug Bear, and then toasts were made to “the King” and to Kari Lindsay, the piper, who had led the head table guests to their seats.
She thanked the cooks, cadets and cadet parents for having provided the meal.
Calling the event “a wonderful gathering,” Mayor Nancy Brunt said that she is missing not seeing many faces of those who have passed away or moved since the last time the Legion had gathered for a Remembrance Day banquet.
“We need to remember them, the fallen soldiers and those who returned from war but were never the same,” Brunt said, adding that she pleads that the cadets serving the meal might never see such a war as had been experienced.
The world is a scary place and people must remember the past and look to a future for a better way that includes being more positive, friendly and caring, she said, urging people to look across the table, say “let’s be friends and let’s take care of one another.
“In that way we may achieve peace for our children and grandchildren,” Brunt said. “May they never have to go to war.”
“I’m pleased this evening that we can come together again and give thanks and honour those who’ve fought for our country and helped other countries when called upon,” Tourangeau said, explaining that she had seen firsthand the efforts of Canadian soldiers when she had gone to Amsterdam in 2014 and an elderly man had asked to shake her hand and say “thank you” with a tear in his eye.
She said that the man, probably in his 80s, had seen a tiny Canadian flag pin on her backpack and had made her realize that Canadian soldiers had been in the Netherlands and “one way or another, we’re all related to someone that fought in the war.
“When I visited the Canadian graves in Bény-sur-Mer and Vimy, I was amazed that the graves were so well looked after,” she said, thanking the citizens for having looked after “our young men’s final resting place.
“That tiny Canadian pin that I had placed on my bag might as well have been a 10 by 20 flag wrapped around me,” she said. “The flag has become the predominant and most recognizable national symbol of Canada.”
Tourangeau made mention of her Uncle George who had been a Prisoner of War during the Second World War and had died on Nov. 5, 1943 in Hong Kong.
He never came home to his wife, his mother and father, sisters and brothers, but every year the family posts his photo and wonders which family member he resembles the most.
Thanking Legion members “who show up in full support of our Legion,” Tourangeau urged persons wishing to join the Legion, which is “an awesome group,” to contact Diane Smutt.