From coast to coast, Canada is dotted with war memorials — over 6,200 according to Veterans’ Affairs Canada — that serve as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of Canadians in global conflicts.
In Whistler, our memorial is the cenotaph at Whistler Fire Hall #1 on Blackcomb Way, which has been the focus of Remembrance Day ceremonies for 29 years. This year, Monday (Nov. 11) will mark the 30th anniversary of Whistler’s Remembrance Day observances.
The service gets underway at 10:45 a.m. and will feature a veterans’ parade and traditional colour party, a performance by the Whistler Singers and Children’s Chorus, the traditional minute of silence at 11 a.m., poetry readings, an Act of Remembrance, the laying of wreaths and a ceremonial helicopter flyover. The Rotary Club will also serve coffee after the event, welcoming any service veterans that are in town for the ceremony.
Whistler Council has also proclaimed this week, Nov. 5 to Nov. 11, as Remembrance Week, following the Government of Canada, Province of British Columbia and other orders of government.
While this is a time of relative peace, it’s still important to honour the more than 110,000 Canadians that have died in battle in the last 100 years. It’s also important this year to remember that Canadians are still serving overseas in Afghanistan. While they’re no longer in a combat role, soldiers are assisting police and soldiers in their ongoing battle to provide some stability to that war-torn country.
As well, veterans of that war are fighting a different kind of battle at home: a report released in July suggests that some 14.5 per cent of the more than 30,500 Canadians that served in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2012 have been diagnosed with an associated mental illness, most commonly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression.
Some 158 Canadians were killed in Afghanistan, averaging more than one death a month over a decade. As well, over 2,000 Canadian soldiers were wounded in battle, an average of more than 16 per month.
Whistler has a continuing role to play in the lives of veterans. In 2010 we played host to the Paralympic Winter Games, with several soldiers wounded in battle competing in a variety of events.
As well, on an ongoing basis the Whistler Adaptive Sport Program provides recreation for veterans disabled in service, plus an opportunity for those veterans to rehabilitate through sport.
Every year for the past few years, WASP and partners have also played host to Soldier On, a Canadian program designed to give disabled veterans a chance to try Paralympic sports, as well as Battle Back, the U.K. equivalent to Soldier On. We’ve also played host to Wounded Warrior in the past, an American program that offers the same kind of experiences.
Whistler to some degree was also built by veterans. One of Whistler’s founding pioneers and earliest developers, Walter Zebrowski, served for the entire duration of World War II. He was wounded on the very first day of fighting in Poland, and moved from front to front over the next six years. (See Museum Musings on P.31)
Whistler does not have a legion hall, but there are active legions in both Pemberton and Squamish.