Brampton pays tribute to its own veterans to mark Remembrance Day
Local vets share their stories of service in video project
This Remembrance Day, the city of Brampton is letting its veterans sum up why the day carries so much importance.
"[It's] about remembering those who signed up and essentially wrote a cheque to say, 'I'm giving you everything. I'm giving you my life,'" said Sgt. Chris Banks.
The city partnered with the Royal Canadian Legion to produce emotional videos of some of Brampton's military veterans telling their story. They released them this week on Brampton's YouTube channel.
"It's beautiful, it's touching, and it brings almost everybody who watches it to tears," Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey told CBC Toronto.
Sgt. Banks deployed to Bosnia at age 21 as a peacekeeper with the Lorne Scots Regiment. Five years later, he deployed to Afghanistan as a machine gunner.
In the video, Banks said when it comes time to tell his daughter about his service, he wants to be honest — but also not to tell her too much. He doesn't talk about combat, he said. There are things he hasn't even told his wife.
Banks was also candid about his return from Afghanistan.
"I came home and I crawled into a bottle," he said. "I stayed there for about 18 months."
He found his native Brampton too quiet, he said. He was always on edge. It was difficult to interact with people, and he couldn't sleep.
But something else was different, too — the way he thought about Nov. 11.
"When I got back from Afghanistan, Remembrance Day was really hard for me. All I could think about was people I actually knew. That's what changes — I knew some of the guys who didn't come home."
The city has also hung banners on lamp posts along the Main Street corridor with photos of the veterans, and the words, "Lest we Forget."
"They put a face and a person and a name to something that many people just can't connect with," Jeffrey said. "It's really important we keep the memories alive — to speak about that sacrifice — because we still have many of our veterans walking the streets. It's important to say thank you and to educate our young people."
Decades of service
The veterans who shared their stories in the video series range widely in age. The common threads that emerge, though, are tales of overcoming fear — and loss.
Colonel Edward Conover said on Remembrance Day he thinks about the people he knows who didn't make it back from the Second World War. His brother is one of them.
Still, he considers himself lucky — despite losing a heel after stepping on a landmine.
"Eighteen guys in my platoon that day lost their legs," Conover said.
For many who have served, one of the most difficult parts is coming home. Captain Stewart Dalziel joined the Lorne Scots, and said after a tour in Afghanistan, he's "still adapting" to life back in Canada.
"I came home in 2007, so that's 10 years ago. I still see people to help me through it," Dalziel said.
"I've lost some good friends that came home and couldn't make it."
For him, Remembrance Day is for those friends he's lost. It's an obligation for Canadians to remember the sacrifice so many veterans have made, he said.
Pilot Officer Bill Burrell choked up in the video.
"I'm really honoured when the kids come out and want to shake my hand and say, 'Thank you for what you did.'"
The city of Brampton and the Royal Canadian Legion have two events planned for Remembrance Day. There is a sunrise service at Meadowvale Cemetery Chapel starting at 7:55 a.m.
There will also be a parade and service of remembrance starting at 10:55 a.m. at the cenotaph at Ken Whillans Square.