CARP – What had grown in to one of west Ottawa’s largest Remembrance Day service, then almost dismantled by the pandemic, returns to Carp Saturday, Nov. 11 with new organizers who have a personal connection to the somber annual ceremony.
Chery Bush and Peter Bowles are both Carp residents and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. When the call went out last year looking for new lead volunteer organizers, the pair stepped up.
The West Carleton War Memorial, a beautiful and heavily symbolic park off Donald B. Munro Drive, officially opened in 2016. The driving force behind the memorial, the West Carleton War Memorial committee, then took over the organization of a new Remembrance Day service at the memorial.
It grew fast, with numbers estimated at more than 4,000 in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and gatherings of any kind were cancelled. For the next two years, a small private ceremony was held at the site and livestreamed to the public. Last year, the original organizers decided they no longer had the energy to organize the event. It seemed like there would be no service in 2022, until at the last minute, a pair of Carp’s reverends (Bishop Peter Coffin and Rev. Debbie Roi led an impromptu service.
This year the Remembrance Day service returns in full, and the new organizers hope to return the service to its full glory.
“For myself, I’ve lived in the community for more than 25 years,” Bush told West Carleton Online from the West Carleton War Memorial today (Nov. 1). “Carp is my home. Retiring from the military, I still wanted to be involved, I used to do a lot of event planning in the military and wanted to give back to my community. When I saw the post on Facebook last year, I raised my hand and stepped forward. We have a beautiful memorial here in Carp, so someone had to come forward and keep the torch going.”
Bowles says his story is similar.
“(Former organizer) Pete Maddocks put a call out looking for new blood,” he said. “I moved here in 2017 and have been here for a few years now, and I too recently retired from the military. Being a veteran, we know what cenotaphs and memorials mean, especially on Nov. 11. I’ve always done community work, mostly in soccer, so I figured it’s a good way to stay involved in my Carp community and something a little more near and dear to my heart. I think Carp and West Carleton has a pretty strong veterans’ community. There are a number of currently serving and former members here in Carp as well as the outlying areas.”
Both are hoping the service returns to its former glory in the days before COVID.
“I truly hope it’s a large service,” Bush said. “I think a lot of the community members are looking forward to getting out, because I think a lot of people probably have not been to a Remembrance Day ceremony in a while due to COVID and the restrictions we’ve just come out of. I’m hoping for a great turnout because that means we’re passing the torch to the next generation. It’s not just for the military, it’s for Canadians to gather and remember the men and women who have served and are still serving.”
Bowles says he echoes that sentiment.
“Remembrance Day isn’t just about remembering the war and the fallen,” Bowles said. “It’s remembering sacrifices and sacrifice isn’t just soldiers. Sacrifices include the men and women who lost parents, brothers and sisters or children. Those who had to do without. During the war it was well documented there were food shortages, oil shortages and metal shortages. People had to do more with less. People had to make sacrifices here at home as well as abroad. So, I think it’s about those things and how Canadians came together at a time when the world was having some troubles, much like it is now. I think it’s to remember everybody’s role in that, not just those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The two say organizing this event has been a learning experience.
“A lot has happened in the past four days,” Bush said.
“I think anyone who has ever served in the military has some level of training or experience with planning, and operating, and doing more with less,” Bowles said. “We call them fastballs and putting out fires. So, the fastball is we need this done, and then putting out all the fires to get it done. As veterans were uniquely used to it and unusually equipped to do this. I think this year, it will be fine, it definitely is a little rushed this year, but I have a good feeling for next year. But we have to get it back up and off the ground and you have to start somewhere. The community is coming together, and people are helping.”
“We’re 11 days away and it’s going to happen,” Bush said. “We’re looking for a huge support and turnout from the community.”
Bowles says the former organizers Maddocks and Stuart Hodge and the rest of the committee have helped the two with the transition as new organizers.
“They put together a pretty good book to help us along the way,” Bowles said. “As two people taking over the torch, they’re still available to help us learn, but this is sort of the solo maiden flight. As we get more connected with the community, and they get to know us, it will help to get the message out.”
The service will take place at the West Carleton War Memorial at the bottom of Falldown Lane at Donald B. Munro Drive. Organizers ask those taking part in the service to be in their viewing position for 10:45 a.m. in time for the start of the 10:50 a.m. service.
There will be a casual gathering at the Carp Agricultural Hall following the service.