Nova Scotia·Video

Remembrance Day service draws thousands to Halifax's Grand Parade

Thousands of people gathered in Halifax this morning to remember the men and women who fought and died in battle.

Ceremony outside of Halifax's City Hall honours Canada's fallen

Silver Cross mother Anne Snyder is escorted by Col. John MacDonald, commander of the 36 Canadian Brigade Group, as she lays a wreath at Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grand Parade in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Anne Snyder's son, Capt. Jonathan Snyder, was on his second tour in Afghanistan in 2008 when the platoon he was commanding was ambushed by Taliban fighters. 

His platoon was almost surrounded when gunfire broke out. As the bullets flew, Snyder strategized a way to lead his group — which included Afghans being trained by the Canadians — to safety. 

Nearly everyone in the group was able to escape. Some of the Afghan trainees were killed by gunfire but Snyder ensured the soldiers brought their bodies back, his mother recalled.

"My son said nobody gets left behind," said Anne Snyder.

"For this, he was recognized for courage under fire."

Capt. Jonathan Snyder was just 26 when he died while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. (Department of National Defence)

Snyder was awarded the Star of Military Valour, the highest honour given during the Afghan mission. The honour recognizes an act of bravery and devotion in the presence of an enemy, and is second only to the Victoria Cross. 

But Snyder wasn't alive to receive the medal. Three nights after his platoon was ambushed, he drowned after falling into an unmarked well during a foot patrol.

He was just 26. 

Anne Snyder, who lives in Bridgewater, N.S., was this year's Silver Cross mother, which is also known as the Memorial Cross. At the cenotaph in Halifax's Grand Parade, she laid a wreath on behalf of all families who have lost loved ones while serving their country. 

Snyder said she's grateful for Remembrance Day because people take the time to reflect on fallen soldiers like her son. 

Thousands of people gathered on Monday morning for ceremonies in communities across Nova Scotia to honour and remember those who have served their country. 

Watch CBC Nova Scotia's coverage of the ceremony at Halifax's Grand Parade:

There were only a handful of Second World War veterans in attendance at the Grand Parade ceremony this year. Among them was Alvin Auton Sr., who is 96. He served with the navy on the HMCS Woodstock. One of his jobs was dropping explosives into the North Atlantic. 

"[I was] just a young boy off a farm, didn't know what it was to be afraid. We were there because we wanted to be," he said. 

Alvin Auton Sr., 96, is accompanied by his son Wayne Auton. Auton was a member of the royal Canadian Navy and served on corvettes. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Marion Fryday-Cook, president of Nova Scotia Nunavut command, helped organize today's events in Halifax.

"It's tremendous, tremendous to have the amount of people out to remember our fallen and to honour those who came home and to support our military families," she said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the worst peacetime accident in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy. HMCS Kootenay was participating in training exercises in the English Channel when a gearbox ignited in the vessel's engine room and exploded on the morning of Oct. 23, 1969.

Nine people were killed and 53 others were injured.

'I don't think you'll ever forget the fellas that died'

Gord "Dusty" Miller, is a retired lieutenant commander of the navy. He was working on HMCS Kootenay as a supply officer when the explosion happened. 

"I don't think you'll ever forget the fellas that died or the actual disaster," he said.

Gord "Dusty" Miller, a retired lieutenant commander of the Navy, was working on HMCS Kootenay as a supply officer when the explosion happened. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Miller said, even now, when he goes into an unfamiliar building he looks for a secondary exit. He said most of his crew do the same and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

This will be the first time a wreath will be laid at the cenotaph in memory those who died and were injured in the tragedy.  

Miller said it's important for Canadians to remember that people died in the Cold War, as well as the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

Thousands of Nova Scotians of all ages attended the Remembrance Day service at Halifax's Grand Parade on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

'We need to find these people'

Prior to the Halifax ceremony, a group of veterans met for breakfast. They don't just get together on Remembrance Day though — there's a standing invitation for veterans to join them every Saturday morning in Halifax. What started with just a handful of veterans eight years ago has grown to more than 50 regulars, many of whom are part of UN NATO Veterans Canada.

Angus Cameron, who was in the navy for 26 years, said the group is committed to looking out for fellow former servicemen and women. 

He said many veterans are suffering from ongoing psychological trauma and may struggle as they adapt to civilian life. 

"We try to find our family. We try to find veterans that have been released and they might be isolated in their hotels or apartments or homes," he said.

"A lot of people who are in this group have told me this group is medicine. This group is saving lives. All we're doing is getting together, handshake, hug and just checking on each other."

Remembrance Day ceremonies were held in communities across Nova Scotia today, including one this morning at Truro's Civic Square.  (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Cameron said he hopes his group's yellow patches on black leader vests are a reminder for people to think about veterans in their community who may be struggling. 

"They don't jump up and down and say I need help. They're alone… we need to find these people," he said

 "It's not good to be alone. We've got to find these people. And that's what we're doing."

With files from Tom Murphy

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