"It is very good to have Remembrance Day so that people will remember how some others have sacrificed their bodies and their lives,” Rev. Stephen Ruten said, quoting the late Albert Tysowski of Kamsack during the community’s Remembrance Day service on November 11.
“I think highly of people who make those sacrifices."
“And I must say, I do, too, Albert, and I'm sure all those here in this room, and those listening, will agree,” Ruten added. “We, too think highly of those who made those sacrifices. We will remember them.”
During this time of COVID the Kamsack branch of the Royal Canadian Legion well knows the sacrifices made, Jim Woodward, branch president, said in his welcoming remarks for the virtual service.
“By this time in a normal year this would have been our sixth service we would have shared with our community,” Woodward said, explaining that the service, which was being recorded by Access Live, would be broadcast over the network on November 14 at 2 p.m. and on November 15 at 10:30 a.m.
In addition, Judy Green recorded the service which can be viewed on Facebook.
After the singing of O Canada, Woodward read the Honour Rolls containing the names of the war dead from Kamsack and Togo and Cote, Keeseekoose and The Key First Nations during the First World War, Second World War, the Korean War and as peacekeepers.
On bugle, Kyler Kitsch played The Last Post and during the two minutes’ silence following, Woodward called out the names of three Kamsack Legion members who have died since the last Remembrance Day service: Don Hollett, Bob Stoyand and Earla Rudd. Kitsch then played Reveille and Woodward recited the traditional “we will remember them” pledge.
In his homily, Rev. Ruten, the Legion chaplain, recalled the experience Tysowski, a Kamsack veteran who had his fighter plane shot down during the Second World War and he had parachuted into the English Channel, where he was scooped up by Germans and spent three years as a prisoner of war.
Tysowski had said he had never been a particularly religious person to that point—in fact, he said he was an agnostic, Ruten said. He had told his interviewer some years ago, his voice cracking with emotion: "In the plane at 1,600 feet, I said, 'God, help me.' I've been a believer ever since."
It takes facing death for some to cry out to God, Ruten said. “But there is a God who rules from Heaven, whether we acknowledge it or not. The Bible says that He may let "all nations go their own way," but He also intervenes in the affairs of nations: "He brings one down, He exalts another.
“In Ephesians 6, Paul reminds those who have chosen to follow Jesus that in our world where there are always some conflicts, or wars simmering or raging, there is a far greater spiritual war,” Ruten said. “So, He says, ‘Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes...our struggle is not against flesh and blood...but against... the spiritual forces of evil.’”
“On Remembrance Day, I call you to remember that, too! We are here today to remember nearly 116,000 Canadians who have been killed in conflicts…and in peacekeeping,” he said. “We have heard the names of some of them today. Each name that was read, and the tens of thousands of other names, represents a sacrifice and sorrow that runs very deep.”
Ruten referred to a book If You’re Reading This…Last Letters from the Front Line, which
tells how soldiers had been told to write a final farewell to family, just in case they would not come back.
“There is a war on,” Ruten said, quoting the book. “Maybe I shall never see either of you again, nor hear your dear voices, but this letter may, if I fail to return, bring us near together once again—maybe even across the void of death. If and when you read this letter, which you are both too young to understand as yet, try to remember that your daddy loves you and will love you, forever and always. You are always in my mind, and I can truly say that my only real worry in this war is, that I shall never see you again, or know what you will grow up to be like.”
It so happened that man survived the Second World War, but with many others, tears of family would stain those farewell letters, he said.
Adolf Hitler had grand schemes of ruling the world, of reducing the whole world to submission under him, of making the whole world one, huge concentration camp under his rule, Ruten said. He dreamed of establishing a thousand years of such rule, the thousand-year Reich.
Ruten referred to the experience of Primo Levi, who had spent a year in Auschwitz, and said that
never has there existed a state that was really "totalitarian," that there had always been some form of reaction, a corrective of the total tyranny, be it public opinion, the foreign press, the churches, the feeling for justice and humanity, which have to a greater or lesser extent acted as a brake.
An essential part of what prevented Hitler from reaching his goal was the response of nations, like Canada, and many others, who joined the effort to kill Hitler's dreams, he said. “And that effort brings us to Remembrance Day, where we remember the sacrifice of those who were killed.
“In August 1914, Germany invaded and occupied large areas of France. I think we can see invasion and war on a miniature scale, on an infant's scale, when one small child grabs another child's toy from his hand, and declares, ‘Mine!’ What can be done with an injustice like that? Well, hopefully, there's a fair-minded parent nearby, who's bigger, and smarter, and stronger than the tiny totalitarian who grabbed the toy… (and) will intervene, and set things right.
“Germany grabbed a big chunk of France, and said, ‘Mine!’ It is probably simplifying too much to say that invasions and wars are a sign that some people never really grow up, but I think there is some truth there.
“Nations quickly came together, and Canada was one of them, to correct the balance. Many were far too optimistic.
“Albert Tysowski said, ‘We're supposed to be intelligent people. If we would spend on food and other necessities the money we waste on wars we'd all be living like kings. One nation against another is very bad. That's not being smart; that's being stupid.’
“One of the effects of war can be to stir up hatred of a people because they are enemies in war,” Ruten said. “Frankie Johnson, a Canadian flyer shot down over Germany shortly before the Second World War ended, had an experience that should inspire us to resist any tendency to hate.
He was a mess, back wrecked, right leg wounded, a bullet in his left hip, bleeding from his forehead and covered in mud and blood and aircraft oil.
“His German captors had dumped him in a farmhouse where a middle-aged German farmer's wife treated him with kindness that he still can't make sense of.
“‘I was bloody. I had muddy boots on...And this lady kept talking to me, and gets a big bowl of hot water and cleans all this mess off. She bandages my hip, and left me lying on that beautiful bed. Now, why would she do that? I was the enemy. And to this day, sitting here talking to you, I still can't get over it. Then she comes up with a big bowl of stew and every time I have chunky soup for lunch I picture that nice German lady. She was a wonderful person.’”
Johnson said that what really gets to him is when people go on about the German people and how awful they were. Yes, there were the real Nazis and the Gestapo, and they were nasty pieces of work, but the ordinary Germans in the countryside “were just like you and me, and I don't think they really knew what the war was about.”
“Yes, leaders and armies will move to grab things like a child grabbing another child's toy,” he said. “And there will be occasions when nations must unite and oppose such evil actions.
“We cannot remain indifferent, unmoved, when we acknowledge the link our freedom has with someone who has sacrificed their life,” Ruten said in his closing prayer. “We are grateful for every one whose name was read aloud today, and thousands of others who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And we thank You for Your Son Jesus, who shed His blood so we could be redeemed, set free. And we remember that Jesus said, ‘If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.’ For that we give our deepest thanks.”
Woodward recognized the Kamsack air cadets who had set out the many wreaths that in another year would have been ceremoniously laid at a cenotaph. This year only one wreath was laid, by Gord Craig on behalf of the Kamsack Legion. He also thanked the squadron for having painted poppies on rocks in the No Stone Left Alone initiative.
The service concluded with the singing of God Save the Queen and Keri Lindsay playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.