Fort High honours its war heroes

“Lest we forget the men who died
Those who stood for peace and pride
Stop and think and you will see
They gave themselves so we’d be free.”
From “Generations” by Kathryn Barron

“It’s ironic that we are holding this service in the John R. Townshend Theatre,” Fort High teacher Mark Kowalchuk told students at last Thursday morning’s Remembrance Day service.
“John R. Townshend was a teacher here at Fort High. A principal, a husband, father, soldier, and ultimately a casualty of war,” he noted. “He led many brave young men from this school into war, and he gave his life.”
Two services were held for FFHS students and staff. And for both, the 430-seat Townshend Theatre was full.
“There are two lists on the stage here,” said Kowalchuk. “The names on the list are the students from this school who went to war.
“Coincidentally, the number of names on these lists is about the same as the number of seats in this theatre. Look around you. This is how many young men from our school went to war . . . many didn’t return,” he remarked.
On the lists, the names of those who didn’t return are denoted with a silver star.
During the services, Fort High students continued the tradition of honouring several of the names on the list. This year, short war biographies were presented of Carl Domanski, Don Kerr, Bruce Murray, James Cox, Roland Roy, Frank Keenahan, and Allan Tibbetts.
In his opening address to the students, teacher Andrew Hallikas got one main point across. “It is always the young who fight the wars,” he stressed.
“Sixty years ago, they were the same students as you,” he said. “The clothes were different, the hairstyles have changed, but they enjoyed the same things. The only difference is that their country went to war.
“Look around you. These are the same faces that fought the war,” he added.
The ceremonies also included two very solemn performances by Chris Denby’s vocal class, who sang “Pie Jesu” (Precious Jesus) and “Dona Nobis Pacem” (Give Us Peace).
During the students’ address, Jackie Reid, Melanie Halvorsen, and Aimee Pelletier tried to stress that even though it is hard to relate to the tragedies of war for many young people in the community today, it is important they try.
“If we don’t remember, who will keep the memories alive?” asked Pelletier.
“All we have to do to see what we have is look to other countries where people are forbidden the basic freedoms of religion and expression,” noted Halvorsen.
“We owe everything we have to those who fought for our country.”
They also pointed out Remembrance Day is not just about the two World Wars, adding we also have veterans from the Korean war, the Gulf War, and others. And even now, thousands of Canadian peacekeepers are stationed all over the world.
When Joanna Barron read the poem “Generations” by her older sister, Kathryn, the whole experience seemed to hit home for many students. The poem deals with the fact it is getting harder for young people to remember something that happened so many years before they were born.
As Hallikas said, many young people have no living relative who fought in the war.
“[But] to forget is to consign ourselves again to the entire terrible experience of war,” Hallikas warned. “Because of what they did, every generation has incurred a debt that can never be repaid.”