Remembrance Day lessons for R.I. Baker students

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Piper Mike Miller leads the colour guard and staff and students from R.I. Baker to the cenotaph during Remembrance Day ceremonies.

COALDALE – Learning didn’t end for students as their textbooks were tucked away and classrooms were emptied for R.I. Baker Middle School’s Remembrance Day observance.

The service featured music by the Grade 8 Band, the reading of “In Flanders Fields” by the Drama 7 class, a colour guard and community dignitaries in the school gym before piper Mike Miller led proceedings to the nearby cenotaph for the laying of wreaths.

Acts of remembrance invite participants to look beyond themselves and consider the lived experiences and memories of others, said MC and R.I. Baker Vice-Principal Lindsay Hagen.

As time continues to move us further away from the realities of soldiers who fought in the First and Second World War, she said it is critical schools nurture empathy in their students. 

“Although they may never experience war on a battlefield, either in the historical or current context, it's important that students can put themselves in the place of those who do have those experiences so as to deepen their understanding and continually renew their own commitment to remembrance,” said Hagen.

Ken Garinger, Palliser Regional Schools’ Associate Superintendent Human Resources, was guest speaker at the ceremony. He told students, staff and community members of the two very different perspectives his grandfathers brought home with them from the war.

“I’ve heard it said that death leaves a heartache no one can heal and love leaves a memory no one can steal. I am fortunate to have those memories as many of you do – of family who have passed on but have left legacies that no one can take,” he said.

Lance-Cpl. Victor Garinger was scarred by the things he witnessed during the liberation of what is now the Netherlands. War to him was not a celebration of the differences we should value in each other, but rather an exclamation point demonstrating that when we don’t value each other and our differences, it can lead to atrocities beyond our imagination, said his grandson.

His maternal grandfather, Ken Arnold, was a private who was among the 2,460 Canadians wounded in the battle of Dieppe. Although his time as a PoW included grueling manual labour and taxing stints of solitary confinement after multiple  escape attempts, those who nursed him back to health and a prison guard who would occasionally sneak him food left him with a lasting impression.

“If there is something to be learned it is certainly the belief that just one person can make such a difference in the life of another and isn’t that the hope we all have?” the Palliser senior administrator asked. “If they were alive today they would ask – sorry, they would demand – that each of you ‘take care of yourself, take care of this place, but most importantly, take care of each other!’ ” 

The Remembrance Day observance included representatives from the Town of Coaldale, Royal Canadian Legion, Lethbridge Regional Police Service, Coaldale Emergency Services, Ministry Association of Coaldale, the local Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce as well as the Palliser Board of Education, represented by Trustee Debbie Laturnus.

Hagen said times shared by the R.I. Baker family outside the classroom can be invaluable.

“It is important for staff and students to come together on this occasion as the spirit of solidarity transcends any of the formal school roles,” she said. “At the most foundational level it is about people sharing an experience, that although it may mean different things to different people, is unified in the act of remembrance.” 

Respect is something that is imbedded in everything they do at R.I. Baker Middle School, said Hagen, and as the students grow and develop the habits that will afford them success as responsible citizens, occasions such as Remembrance Day are valuable learning moments.