Remembrance Day ceremony held at new memorial site

While Remembrance Day ceremonies can be solemn events as people recall veterans who served in past wars, Dick Bird was all smiles Sunday when he spoke at the blessing and dedication of the new War Veterans and Peacetime Armed Forces Memorial Site at Couchiching.
“I couldn’t be happier. The turnout, the weather, the veterans who’ve come together–it couldn’t be a better day,” he enthused.
The idea for a monument was a dream Bird has been chasing for years. “I went to the cenotaph [in Fort Frances] on Remembrance Day about six or seven years ago and that’s when I thought, ‘Why don’t we have our own monument?’” he recalled.
Bird pitched the idea to Couchiching Coun. Dave Bruyere and Dan Bruyere about 18 months ago during a dinner party.
“David’s eyes lit up and before you know it, they brought the idea to the chief [Chuck McPherson] and council. They were all for it,” Bird said.
A committee, consisting of Dave Bruyere, Gerald Bruyere, Elmer Mainville, Eugene McPherson, Glen Jourdain, Clint Perreault, and Bird, then researched how many veterans from Couchiching served in the Canadian and U.S. Armed Forces since World War I.
The committee came up with 105 names, which were inscribed on two plaques to be displayed at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The names also will be inscribed on the monument by next spring.
A special ceremony to unveil the finished site is planned for June 6.
Three flags–recognizing Canada, Couchiching First Nation, and the U.S.–complete the site, which is located behind the band office and was blessed by Father Eugene Whyte during Sunday’s ceremony. .
Bird noted the U.S. flag was just as important as the other two. “We have perhaps as many as 30 veterans who served in the U.S. but were actually from here,” he said.
Six Couchiching band members fought in the First World War while about served in WW II. The remaining 59 served in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, as well as in peacetime duties.
Sunday’s ceremony, which attracted more than 200 people, including Chief McPherson, Deacon Elmer Mainville, and the entire band council, wasn’t held Nov. 11 because the committee “wanted it to be held close to Remembrance Day but not conflict with it,” Bird said.
The local Legion Colour Guard and the Fort Frances Highlanders also were on hand.