Three Oaks, Kinkora students set to travel to Vimy Ridge
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Kaitlin Morrison, Olivia Enman and Alex Gallant are among 17 Three Oaks Senior High students taking part in a pilgrimage to Europe. Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE — In less than two weeks, a group of Prince County students will retrace the steps of those who fought and died for Canada’s freedom.
The students — 16 from Three Oaks Senior High and 14 from Kinkora Regional High — are taking part in a pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge and, on Remembrance Day, will be in the place where the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” was penned.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said Olivia Enman.
“It is such an important part of (veterans) history and their lives and we have to take time from our busy schedules to pay remembrance to them,” said the Grade 11 student.
Since 2008, Three Oaks teacher Dave Chisholm has led 10-day pilgrimages to significant First and Second World War sites and, in the school, has worked to help recognize and remember veterans.
This will be his third trip with students and fourth trip in total.
“The itinerary is probably going to be the best we’ve done so far,” said Chisholm who, along with fellow teacher Kelly Power, is travelling with the group, which leaves Nov. 7, and returns Nov. 17.
“This is my first time being there on Remembrance Day.”
For Kaitlin Morrison, the months of preparation and fundraising, which is costing each student $3,800, have all been worth it.
“It is something I always wanted to do. I have always been interested in that kind of history,” said the 15-year-old. “It was just breath-taking that I would be able to go over and experience something like this.”
Before embarking on the trip, the students will host a Veterans’ Night at Credit Union Place’s Veterans Convention Centre on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., where they will speak about the veterans they have each been tasked to profile as part of preparation for their pilgrimage.
Alex Gallant hoped to find out more about his great-grandfather, who fought in both the First and Second World Wars.
“He had to lie about his age to get into the first war,” said the Grade 12 student. “He was tall enough so they thought he was old enough.”
War and his experiences were something his great-grandfather, who passed away in 1971, spoke little about.
“We respected him for that,” said Gallant. “All his medals were sent off to Ontario to one of his sons and he has passed on and we have no clue where they are now.”
Gallant sees the pilgrimage as a way to honour his great-grandfather’s memory and his service to his country.
“I want to learn what the life of the soldier was like. They had to deal with the problems of war and problems of being in the trenches and seeing other people die,” said the 17-year-old. “It makes me think of what they had to go through.”
Two days of the 10-day itinerary stand out for the students and Chisholm.
On Nov. 10, the group will walk along Vimy Ridge, where, in 1917, Canadian troops took part in what would become a defining moment in the First World War, then visit the Cabaret Rouge Commonwealth War Cemetery and stop at Thelus Military Cemetery, where they have each been assigned a fallen soldier to visit.
On Remembrance Day, the group will take part in the Poppy Parade from the Vandenpeereboomplein to the Menin Gate, and attend a special Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate on the 94th anniversary of the Armistice.
The group will also visit the Passchendale memorial before moving onto Essex Farm, where Lt.-Col. John McCrae penned the war poem, “In Flanders Fields.”
“It is about remembering the people that were involved in it because there was so much human sacrifice. We (as a society) focus too much on the war side of it,” said Chisholm. “We teach the kids about the different battles, but it is really about the people involved.”
To follow their journey, visit http://toshworldtour2013.blogspot.ca/.