Armed Forces Day ceremony draws thousands to North Bay waterfront

As the Canadian Armed Forces Skyhawks parachute team landed safely on Shabogesic Beach this week, the crowd greeted them with thunderous applause.

Several North Bay and area schools attended the city’s 10th Armed Forces Day celebrations at the Lake Nipissing waterfront. The last two events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all serve with Canada together,” said Grade 7 Student Leena Gasson, who was attending her first Armed Forces Day ceremony.

“I learned that the military is really important to our home."

Dressed in red, those in attendance tried to break a Guinness World Record for the largest human chain maple leaf. The current record was set in Trenton in 2019 with nearly 4,000 people.

"I really loved the band. They were very good and the Skyhawks were amazing,” said Grade 7 Student Abbi Goetz.

A static display with a CH-147 Chinook helicopter and jeeps were parked where the public could meet the military men and women and learn more about the equipment they use.

"The committee does a great job and you see how much fun everyone is having,” said Mayor Al McDonald.

“But it's the respect that we're showing the women and men of (our) country. That's very special."

In total, 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base has more than 500 personnel on the base, including 100 Americans. Wing Commander Richard Jolette recalled taking his children to the ceremony in 2019.

“My kids loved it,” he said. “They were climbing on the trucks, talking to the people.”

Jolette said the event is a recruitment tool for future Canadian Armed Forces military personnel.

“If they see and are inspired by the people they meet with today, then mission accomplished,” he said.

For veterans in attendance, Armed Forces Day symbolizes appreciation from the public -- especially from young people.

Dennis Moore, 92, is a Korean War veteran. He was smiling when talking to a group of students.

"A lot of them already know about not only the war I was in, but many other wars. They're being taught that in school," Moore said.

He was part of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry at Wasaga Beach at the age of 18. He recalled hearing Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent’s voice on the radio looking for volunteers for the war effort.

“Three days later I was out in Calgary with the 2nd Battalion PPCLI Special Force and in December-January of 1951, I was sailing for Korea,” Moore said.

Former Royal Canadian Air Force Navigator Brigadier General Ron Button, 94, had a front-row view of the 22 Wing Band and the Skyhawks. He said he enjoyed seeing the children out in full force.

"I spent 35 years with the RCAF. I flew C-100 jets here in North Bay in 1957 and I was in Comox, British Columbia," Button said. “These young children are the future. It’s great to see them out here.”

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerial team was originally slated to perform but had to cancel when a technical issue was discovered.

"They were very disappointed that they weren't able to come,” said Jolette.

Still, the day was a celebration all the same, the public showing their love and respect for the armed forces.

"I'm a proud Canadian and this makes me more proud," said Moore.