Whistler is set to welcome what is likely the largest military contingent to ever participate in the community's Remembrance Day ceremony next week.
Typically, the colour parade that marks the end of Whistler's remembrance features a handful of current service members. This year that number is likely to top 50, said organizer Brian Buchholz.
"We did get an unsolicited request from a captain representing about 35 or 40 friends and colleagues, and they're all coming up, so we should have the largest parade in the 20 years I've been doing this," he noted. Representatives from the 39 Signal Regiment in Vancouver will join service members from the British Army, the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, along with the local fire department and RCMP detachment, Buchholz said.
Between its international makeup and lack of a legion, there is not much of a military presence in Whistler. Even still, every year Buchholz is "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support from residents on Nov. 11.
"As frustrating and difficult as putting this together can be sometimes, the turnout on the day, the level of support I get from across the community, the municipality, the firefighters, Rotary (clubs), everybody asks what they can do to help," said Buchholz. "Even though there are hundreds of people there, everyone says how intimate (the ceremony) is and how welcoming and community-based it is. That's very encouraging."
Buchholz's Act of Remembrance this year will touch on an issue that too often gets swept under the rug: the lingering effects of war on veterans.
"There are veterans, past and current, who come back from war, who survive, but remain traumatized," Buchholz said. "As Canadians, it's not just something we should read about in the paper, we should try to be cognizant of it and be proactive in offering help to a military member, if we know one, or talk to our MP to make sure they're supporting our troops."
Buchholz will also honour those who bravely fought in Vimy Ridge 100 years ago next April. One the most celebrated military victories in Canadian history, the First World War battle is often mythologized as a symbol of the birth of Canadian national pride. More than 10,500 Canadians were killed or wounded in the assault in the north of France.
Slated for the Whistler Cenotaph at near the village fire department, Buchholz said the Remembrance Day ceremony is putting a strain on the site.
"The turnout on the day is testing the space," he said. "The other (factor) is that it is a very intimate place on Nov. 11; however, the other 364 days of the year (the cenotaph) is in a parking lot, and while the staff do a good job of trimming the trees and cutting the flowers... it's practically at the busiest intersection in Whistler at Blackcomb Way and Village Gate, and anyone who wants to have a reflective moment there among the fire trucks and the police cars, it's a bit of a stretch."
A project request submitted to the municipality to consider relocating the cenotaph was tabled this year. Buchholz is hopeful that discussion will resume in the community.
"It may need to be moved, but that's not for me to say, it's for the community to say. I think there needs to be a discussion on what's best for that place of remembrance," he added.
The Whistler Remembrance Day Committee is also seeking sponsorship support for the sound system on the day of the service.
"With our growing public turnout, one comment we've received was that many people could not hear the service very well," Buchholz said. "Last year, we upgraded the sound system to positive result. As the Service is community based, we are looking for community, service group or business support going forward." Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
The service begins at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 11 with a Veterans' Parade and Colour Party marching up Village Gate Boulevard. The ceremony will feature the Whistler Children's Chorus, poetry readings, a wreath presentation, helicopter flyover, and more. A reception inside the fire hall will follow the service.