Remembrance Day is a time to reflect upon the struggle and sacrifice faced by those who served our country in times of war.
The University Students’ Council broadcasted a live event through Zoom to commemorate Remembrance Day. The event was open to students, alumni and staff, and was recorded in the Mustang Lounge.
It began with a passionate version of the national anthem sung by third-year music student Tyrese Walters. Although the event was virtual, participants were still asked to stand to honour the anthem.
Western University alumna Donika Stonefish and former USC Indigenous relations coordinator provided land acknowledgement from the Kettle Point First Nations on the banks of Lake Huron.
Stonefish explained that although they not required to fight in any war, “none of these battles could have been won without Indigenous people who fought for the continuation of their land for their people.”
Western's president Alan Shepard offered opening remarks on behalf of the university, highlighting the institution’s contributions to the First and Second World Wars.
“Let us rekindle the hope that in today’s time we may see the end of international conflict and pay special tribute to the members of Western University’s community who have proudly served in Canada’s military efforts.”
The address was followed by a powerful trumpet solo of “The Last Post” by Emily Carmichael, a music performance Master's student, and moment of silence. Able participants were once again asked to stand. The solemn silence was broken by a bagpipe performance of “Flowers to the Forest” by student Jim Scott.
Next, the song “Elgar’s Nimrod” was performed by Western students Dorna Aliabadi on the violin and Greg Hong on the cello. Both musicians were wearing masks as they performed together live.
Jim Etherington, another Western alumnus, spoke about the university’s contributions to the war effort. He graduated in 1961 and was a trainee with the rank of flying officer for the Western Canadian’s squadron for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He explained how, despite Western having just 250 students in 1914, a training corps formed at the university in 1915 and had 6,200 graduate students sign up for the First World War. Etherington described various medical units, research and enlistments by students which all contributed to the war efforts. He urged students to visit the detailed accounts of remembrance for Western, found in Middlesex College.
“In many respects, wars are now fought with power and culture that harnesses communication. Real battles are being fought with information,” said Jennie Massey, associate vice-president of student experience. She explained it's the university’s job give students tools to ask questions and test the alignment of our own beliefs and values.
“The pandemic changed our world and how we relate to each other, outlining the importance of powerful communities and meaningful relations,” she said.
USC president Matt Reesor explained how students may have trouble connecting to the sacrifices of soldiers as “we have not witnessed or lived during this violent conflict. However, we should not forget so we do not repeat this tragedy.”
Additionally, Reesor recognized the Western students who served in the Canadian Armed Forces and mentioned how the coronavirus has shown the hardships of adapting to new challenges.
“We can begin here to empathize with how veterans’ lives changed.”
Helena Nikitopoulos, a third-year English literature and film student, shared an original poem titled On the 11th hour of the 11th day, followed by a recital of In Flanders Fields.
The event was concluded by master of Ceremonies, Mathew Yee.
“We must continue to work toward and uphold the peace that Canadians around the world gave their lives to protect.”