Alberta students who helped a World War II veteran replace his lost medals spent Remembrance Day in Ottawa at the invitation of Operation Veteran, an initiative associated with the Canadian War Museum.
The students from Veteran, a village near the Saskatchewan border, convinced Veterans Affairs to replace five medals belonging to 92-year-old Dave Pennington.
When Operation Veteran founder Paul Kavanagh heard their story on CBC News, he asked the school to represent Alberta at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial.
“They had the guts to get the military involved. They had the guts to go after the department of Defence,” he said.
“And they got [Pennington] his beautiful blazer, his jacket and the medals were all posted properly and then it was presented by the kids to this veteran. They got a big heart."
Students did odd jobs to pay for travel
Students had to pay their way to Ottawa so they spent their summer earning extra cash.
"We had kids working all summer long," said Veteran School principal Debbie Letniak. "The community just bent over to give them jobs."
“We would work in people's yards, mow lawns, rake leaves, whatever they wanted us to do,” Grade 9 student Emily Devereux told CBC News last week.
In Ottawa on Monday, Devereux said she was excited by the experience. Pennington didn’t travel with the students so Devereux plans to fill him in on what happened.
“I’m going to tell him lots about being at the Remembrance Day service, what I experienced and what I saw, how cool it was and what other soldiers say,” she said.
Her classmate, Kurt Tkach, was also thrilled by the opportunity.
"To come to Ottawa for Remembrance Day has always been a big dream of mine," he said. "So having it become a reality is really great."
A member of the First Division of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Pennington lost his medals more than 20 years ago when his sister-in-law accidentally threw them out.
The students presented Pennington with the medals last April meaning he can wear them this Remembrance Day for the first time in more than two decades.
“They’re great kids,” he said. “Even the little ones came and shook my hand.”