ST. PAUL - As Remembrance Day nears and final preparations are underway for services across Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion St. Paul Branch 100 members are hoping area residents will join them in paying tribute to the soldiers who never came home.
Ken Brodziak has served as the Remembrance Day committee chairperson in St. Paul for the last several years and is passionate about encouraging people to pause in remembrance, even if it is only to observe two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
He believes this to be so important that he has gone so far in the past as to contact national companies about not opening their doors until noon and asking local businesses that may open to at least pause for the two minutes of silence. It is little to ask, he believes, given the sacrifice so many Canadiens made during war time.
“We have to continue remembering these people that have fallen. We get used to these traditions that we have and our way of life we have right now and that is in part because of men and women that sacrificed, and their families. How many families sent their kids off to war never to see them again, or they came back with severe PTSD or something and they just weren’t the same kids they had raised.”
Brodziak’s father, John, served in Italy during World War 11. From Canada, he went to England in 1943 and was soon to find himself fighting in Italy. He was discharged in 1945.
“I read his papers when he volunteered, and one of the questions was: Why did you volunteer? His answer was ‘a sense of duty and for adventure’ - that was his two reasons,” Brodziak said of his father. “Little did he know what kind of adventure he’d face, but he was lucky he came home.”
One of the wreaths laid during the service in St. Paul honours 27 local soldiers killed in World War II.
“They thought they were going to join up and see some different land overseas and they would be home by Christmas. Little did they know that they would either be there for another three years, or they didn’t come home,” Brodziak said.
While his work with the Legion brings with it a sense of camaraderie and of shared interests with fellow members, supporting veterans and community organizations including St. Paul Search and Rescue and the St. Paul Fire Department through various fund-raising efforts are all part of the Legion’s mandate.
After two years of scaled-downed services due to the pandemic, Brodziak said this year’s event will be a full program at the St. Paul Recreation Centre and involve people of all ages. With a piper, a bugler from 4 Wing Cold Lake and other armed forces representatives, RCMP in red serge, St. Paul Fire Department members and a hall filled with people united in remembrance, he is confident the day will be fittingly observed.
Legion members are also out this week participating and assisting local schools as they hold their own Remembrance observances.
Brodziak is especially pleased to have guest speaker astronaut Joshua Kutryk speak during this year’s service via a live video link from Houston, Texas. Originally from the Beauvallon area, Kutryk will share his journey from a farm in Alberta to joining the Canadian Armed Forces to eventually being selected for Canada’s space program.
“I had written to the Canadian Space Agency in Ottawa, waited three weeks and lo and behold, through that office, Joshua had accepted our invitation,” Brodziak said, adding he believes strongly that Kutryk will inspire young people in attendance, and describing him as an amazing speaker.
Several youth are part of this year’s program specifically leading in the singing of O’ Canada, and a reading of a remembrance poem.
“We always try to keep young people involved and local musicians – we always try to have that local feel to it,” he said, noting there has always been a good turnout for the local service and he fully expects there will be again this year.
“I hope we at least spend a day to remember.”