Adorned with his many medals, Bill Wilkins sat among other veterans at the Remembrance Day service at North Bay’s Memorial Gardens.
A member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 North Bay for the past 45 years, Wilkins is also past Vice-President Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command for the area.
“My grandpa served in WWI, my dad served in WWII and I spent 25 years as a peacekeeper. I had two cousins that were in the navy in WWII in the North Atlantic. I was eight years old when the war was going on. So, I do remember vividly that they did not come home. I lost personal friends on all the peacekeeping missions that I served on. We simply cannot forget,” said Wilkins.
“People should take the time to remember everyone who served, especially those people who paid the supreme sacrifice. We have no idea as to what it entails. They proved that they loved their country so much, that they were prepared to die doing so.”
Seeing the number of school aged children in attendance, Wilkins said it is important the sacrifices made by Canadians be part of their curriculum.
“The Legion is supporting a new program that has a video coming out to teach children at a young age about the importance of Remembrance Day and what it means. It is a long time coming. I think students seem to know more about the American wars and little about the Canadian soldiers who served and died for this country.”
Education was included in the address given by Colonel Mark Lachapelle 22 Wing Commander and Commander of the Canadian Air Defence Sector.
“As we get further from the Great War and the Second World War, the impacts of what happened need to continue to be taught to future generations. They will solve these problems that we have in the world through very intelligent means, rather than having to resort to some of the atrocities that we have seen in previous years,” said Lachapelle.
“It is great to see the cadets out there selling poppies and talking to people and I think that is what it is all about, sharing stories. I have my own personal stories, so do other people. So just to create that avenue to share stories really helps with the history and learning and education.”
The Wing Commander’s own grandfather served in the Second World War.
“And as he spoke to me as a young fella before I joined the military, he told me stories of him being a POW, of him landing on the beaches. He told us in vivid detail,” said Lachapelle.
“More recently in the Afghan war I lost three of my close personal friends who I went to school with. So, it does hit home. You think about them and their families. It continues to be difficult for them year after year.”
He stressed the importance of honouring those who put their lives on the line to protect this country.
“It is a time for personal reflection and time for us to think about those people who do sacrifice day in and day out for our country, for our values and for our freedom.”