Lieutenant Colonel Tom Murphy, Commanding Officer of the 36 Combat Engineer Regiment, opened the ceremony, explaining the history of the community cenotaph that was created to acknowledge deceased veterans of the Preston area (East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook, Lake Loon).
“The creation of the Preston Area cenotaph in 2009 was the fruition of a long-standing dream of the late Mr. Arnold Johnson Senior, a veteran of World War II,” Murphy said. “At local schools in the Preston area, he provided an example of service to his country and community while ensuring future generations were educated and remembered the sacrifices made for our freedom by Preston area veterans.”
The cenotaph commemorates Preston area veterans who served in World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean and Afghanistan wars. Members of the Annie V. Johnson Chapter –The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) were in attendance. There was a special moment of silence remembrance in memory of one of the founding members of the Preston Remembrance Day Committee (PRDC) the late Madeline Downey. This initial small, yet determined committee was instrumental in making the dream of a community cenotaph become a reality.
Much has changed since the call went out for Canadians to sign up to fight in World War I. When the war began in 1914, the Canadian Army rejected young Black men who wanted to enlist. In 1916, the province of Nova Scotia approved and authorized the creation of Canada’s first black Battalion – the No.2 Construction Battalion, and Black men were able to enlist in the first Black Canadian Army unit.
In March 2021, the Canadian government announced its intention to formally apologize to the descendants and family members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. In his remarks in North Preston, Murphy told the crowd that this public announcement is planned for July 2022. He encouraged descendants or family members of veterans from the No. 2 Construction Battalion to register their names to be added to the list. More information on how to do this can be found at www.no2-cef.ca
Sergeant Phillip Safire read the Roll Call of deceased veterans during the ceremony. After the ceremony, I had a moment to ask him a few questions.
When I asked about what it means to him to be part of the ceremony in North Preston, Safire said, “I like the small-town communities, honesty I think when it comes to Remembrance Day, the small communities, this cenotaph, that’s where it’s at, because basically, they are the ones who supplied all the soldiers that had fought in our wars. Yes, the big cities contributed, but the mass majority of them came from small communities.”