Showing appreciation to veterans is a long standing tradition at Kateri Tekakwitha School in Kahnawake around Remembrance Day.
The elementary school in the community on the south shore of Montreal presented dozens of homemade wreaths and poppies to members of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Mohawk branch 219 on Thursday to mark Aboriginal Veterans Day.
“It meant a lot to me when the veterans came because they’ve sacrificed a lot and I’m just happy to see them,” said Grade 6 student Jayce Canadian.
It was also a special day for Grade 6 student Daisy Paul, whose father Darren Paul was in attendance. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001-2007 and completed one western Pacific deployment and two combat tours of Iraq.
“In my case November is always hard,” said Darren Paul.
“This month marks the 14th anniversary of the Battle of Fallujah. I lost quite a few brothers in that fight, so to be a part of these ceremonies is always emotional. Seeing the work that these kids put into it is heartwarming and at the same time, remembering your brothers, I came close to tearing up a few times.”
Meeting veterans in the community
The annual event is organized by teaching assistant Laurie Montour, Her brother Eugene served in the United States military for many years and was deployed to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
“I think it’s important that our students know that we have veterans in our community and the sacrifices that they have gone through,” said Montour.
“Some of them went away and didn’t come back. Luckily my brother did come back and most of our veterans did come home.”
For Ray Deer, president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Mohawk branch 219, the event is one of his favourites among the many Remembrance Day activities the branch is invited to attend.
“Many of us went to school here; we’re coming back and it’s a little bit haunting,” said Deer, who served with the Royal Montreal Regiment and U.S. army.
“Coming here to Kateri is more than special. We’ve watched these young kids honour us. It’s heartfelt.”
Visit from mobile museum
Along with artwork, songs and poems presented by students, the branch also brought its mobile museum showcasing the community’s military history, and a moment of silence took place for 10 sailors from Kahnawake who died during the First World War, Second World War and Korean War.
Kahnawake has a rich military history, with many men and women having served both in the Canadian and United States military.
“For quite a while, both the United States and Canada didn’t really acknowledge the contributions of our Aboriginal veterans,” said Deer.
“It’s changed. There’s more emphasis on having us included. For us, it’s a way that we can have a voice to say that we’ve defended both the United States and Canada in many conflicts.”