When I first came to Royal Roads University in 1998, I was moved by not only the beautiful location, inspiring staff and faculty, but also by the ability to make a difference in the lives of students. I didn’t expect an annual event at Royal Roads to have a profound effect on me personally.
My paternal grandfather volunteered for WWII, fighting for a better world for his country and the family he left behind: a wife and three young children, with another on the way. He lost his life just two weeks before the end of the war. He is buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands with more than 1,300 other soldiers.
Growing up, I remember attending Remembrance Day services in the high school auditorium in Port Alberni where I grew up, and later at events in the communities I called home.
Shortly after coming to Royal Roads, I attended the RRMC Ex-Cadet Club’s annual Remembrance Day Ceremony held in the Italian Gardens. It was a simple affair, attended by more than one hundred people. The service was beautiful, respectful and moving.
I have always felt a special connection to the grandfather I never met. My grandmother kept many of the letters he wrote home and, and when I asked, she made copies for the grandchildren, gifting his words in binders for us all to treasure. It became a family tradition to read his letters every November 11 to honour his memory.
I often thought I would like to lay a wreath in my grandfather’s name and, after getting to know some members of the ex-cadet club, I asked if I could, even though my grandfather did not attend RRMC. They were pleased to allow me to do so.
I connected with the Legion and picked out a suitable wreath. The Padre offered a heartfelt service, with just the right amount of comical comments to lighten the mood, and finished with a call for wreaths to be laid.
I approached the cenotaph, paused, stepped forward to lay the wreath, paused and stepped back. When I returned to my spot in the garden, I was overcome with emotion. I felt our family’s loss of our grandfather, father, brother and husband, the loss to the world of this smart, kind and caring human being and the recognition of his sacrifice during a time in history that desperately needed to protect the future from tyranny.
I continue to attend the Remembrance Day services at Royal Roads and have enjoyed watching the attendance grow and the service evolve.
Laying a wreath at the ceremony instilled in me a greater need to recognize my grandfather. I connected with Professor Bernard Schissel, and introduced him to my grandmother, who he interviewed for his oral history research.
I also work with the Face for Every Name project, which populates the Holten Canadian War Cemetery’s Visitor Centre with photos and stories of the soldiers buried there.
If you find yourself in Holten, be sure to look up Ira Charles Langille and please tell him his family thinks of him always and sends their love.