Tears fell onto a tiny teddy bear that Sherry Boudreau squeezed to her face as she bowed her head and tried to hide her emotions from onlookers.
Like many of the people at the Pitt Meadows Remembrance Day services, this 45-year-old resident found it difficult not to get choked up during the services held at the cenotaph at Pitt Meadows’ Spirit Square on Sunday.
“I came from a long line of… well it’s been part of who I am as long as I can remember,” said the self-proclaimed, pro-military patriot.
Wearing a camoflague jacket bearing the Second Marine, military division crest, Boudreau said: “The people I wear this for were very, very close to me, and there’s still one that’s missing.”
Boudreau grew up in Ontario, but lived in the U.S. for part of her adult life, before returning to Canada.
She’s attended services every year, including the past five since settling in Pitt Meadows. Each year, Boudreau lays a poppy in honour of her best friend Carl, a marine sniper who went missing three and half years ago. He was lost during his duties in the Middle East.
She also pays tribute to another friend, Cheyenne, who while serving in the U.S. army became the first POW in Desert Storm.
After 9-11, Boudreau self-published a book of poems, Written in Blood, that tells a series of veteran stories and talks about the sacrifices they made. All 200 copies were sold, and the money donated to the United Service Organization (USO) and veteran affairs.
Now, she’s in the process of penning another book on the subject, hopeful it will be picked up by a publishing house to ensure wider distribution and more money for the cause so dear to her heart.
Much of her first book, along with samples of her new works, are available on her blog at ravenbran20.blogspot.ca.
“Between Cheyenne and Carl, they’re the reason why I’m here, and they’re the reason that I wrote the book,” Boudreau said.
“It’s been sort of a personal mission to make sure everyone remembers how and why we have our freedoms. It came with a huge price,” she said, taking a poppy off her fluffy companion and laying it on the cenotaph after the services had ended and masses had retreated.
“It’s time more people woke up and realized they are free, not just because we are born in Canada. We’re free because someone paid with their lives and their blood to give us what we have.”
Boudreau was just one of about a thousand people at the Pitt Meadows’ Remembrance Day services on Nov. 11, many of them in attendance because of personal connections to past or present members of the Canadian Forces or other military.
Retired Major Serge Touchette, for instance, served with the army for 38 years and five months as a member of the French Canadian Royal 22 Regiment.
After years of peacekeeping duties in Eastern Canada, the U.S., the Middle East, and Europe, he retired to Pitt Meadows five years ago.
While he wore a beige trench coat to guard against the morning’s cold air, his chest of medals spoke to his years of service as he stood next to his wife Shannon in the largest ever crowd of people circling the cenotaph.
“It was well done here,” he said, comparing the local service to dozens he’s attended around the globe.
“It’s well attended, and it shows people here appreciate not only the service of the Canadian Forces, but the RCMP and the firemen – people who risk their lives every day – those who are part of the fabric of this community.”
The Remembrance Day services in Pitt Meadows, like ceremonies held in hundreds of Canadian communties Sunday morning, featured a roll call of the City’s soldiers from the First and Second World Wars who did not return. It included the march in and out of military, police, firefighters, cadets and dignitaries.
It also featured the reading of In Flanders Field, a prayer, the singing of the national anthem, and two minutes of silence.
It also included a formation flypast, the placing of dozens of wreaths around the cenotaph, a salute by five Korean War vets, and a mention of longtime area resident and legion memer Seib Swiestra, who was a key player in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Pitt Meadows for years, prior to his death a day before last year’s service.
The City’s mayor, Deb Walters, was impressed, in particular, by the number of young people and families in attendance.
“We’re not forgetting our veterans, even though time moves on,” she said. “We’re starting to lose our veterans, but it’s nice to know they’ll always be remembered.”
Walters said the crowd continues to grow year after year, and estimating it was the largest ever participation in her community’s history with close to a thousand present.
Part of that, she said, could also have been credited to the weather. While the rain held off all morning, a light shower began to fall as the crowd started to disperse.