Students challenged to 'make a better Canada' during Remembrance Day ceremony

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A day of reflection and a call to make a better Canada during a Remembrance Day ceremony at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Windsor.

Along with the entire student body, the ceremony was attended by a number of veterans representing Canada's involvement in World War Two, the Korean War, the War in Afghanistan and other conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the world.

Mike Akpata, the current deputy mayor of LaSalle, did a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007 with the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment.

22 Canadians were killed during his tour and Akpata says every time he sees the Canadian flag, every time he hears O'Canada or anything about service to Canada, he thinks of them.

Mike Akpata spoke during the service and called on the students to see that someone close in age to them gave their lives to give them the freedom to make choices or not make choices.

"They have the ability to make a difference, much the way those young men and women in uniform did and make this community and country better," he says. "I challenge them to pick up the torch that's thrown to them from the veterans of the past, accept that their citizenship causes them to have responsibility and do something with their freedom."

Akpata wanted the students to know that being a Canadian citizen is not just about privilege but also responsibility.

"All I want them to do is say is that the stuff that's even irrelevant, you're able to do in this country without fear or favour. But somebody did something so you could do it, or as I kept saying, not do. You don't want to do it, that's fine. But acknowledge the fact that somebody has given their lives so you have the freedom to choose not to contribute," he says.

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A memorial display and bench inside St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Windsor in honour of Corporal Andrew Grenon, a former student of the school. Nov. 10, 2023. (Photo: Rusty Thomson)

Theresa Charbonneau's son Corporal Andrew Grenon attended St. Joseph's before he became a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

On September 3, 2008, Grenon was nearing the end of his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when his patrol fell under attack. The 23-year-old and two other soliders were killed.

Charbonneau believes the messages of sacrifice and responsibility delivered during the ceremony will reach some of the students.

"At least a number of these students will carry it forward and will do good things. It's hard to imagine that they won't. I'm just willing to bet that you will see somebody from this student population do something very worthwhile," she says.

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Silver Cross Mother Theresa Charbonneau, mother of Windsor's Corporal Andrew Grenon, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2003. Nov. 10, 2023. (Photo: Rusty Thomson)

101-year-old World War Two veteran Charles Davis was grateful for the ceremony and urged all of the students to get a good education.

"It's more important today than it ever was. So therefore, if they want to make a better Canada, they have to be a better Canadians," he says.

Grade 12 student Anthony Hoang, who's also a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, says hearing the stories during the ceremony was extraordinary.

"Being able to wear this uniform and live here, call myself Canadian, is an opportunity and a privilege in itself," he says. "The opportunity I've been given from the sacrifice of many of those before me, it's a time to be grateful for being here today and being able to call myself Canadian."

On Saturday, Nov. 11, members of the HMCS Hunter and members of the Windsor Regiment (RCAC) will march from the Great Canadian Flag at Dieppe Gardens up Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, and over to the cenotaph outside Windsor City Hall. 

The parade march will start out from Dieppe at approximately 10:30 a.m. Members of the public are invited to gather along the roadways and join in the parade as it passes by on route to City Hall.

At 11 a.m., representatives of the Windsor Veterans Memorial Services Committee, military representatives, pre-registered wreath bearers, government officials, and members of the public will attend the cenotaph at City Hall Square in Windsor for an outdoor service.

AM800 will be broadcasting Windsor's Remembrance Day service live at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.