Remember when you were in high school and you had that one guest speaker that would come in to talk to your school nearing Remembrance Day that would always stick with you for the rest of your life. Well today 17 years after graduating high school that happened to me.
I was invited to Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, Alberta to hear Cpl Vince Fowlers Remembrance Day presentation to grade 9 to 12s. The gymnasium seated about 1200 students which found their way to their seats pretty quick.
After singing O’Canada, a song by the school choir and a reading of “In Flanders Fields” by a student Vince Fowler started his presentation.
He told his story of how when he was in grade six and he saw a photo of a soldier jumping out of a plane he knew right then he wanted to be a Paratrooper. He as a member of the PPCLI served in Somalia and showed some photos from his time with the Canadian Forces.
He then made an observation that only about 10% of the students were wearing poppies even though there were students giving them out at the door and put the question out as to “Why Not”
Vince then started showing photos of celebrities on his slide show and quizzed the students as to what they knew about Tom Cruise, Henry Burris, Lady Gaga and then when Justin Biebers photo was put on the screen there was a chorus of screams from the females in attendance. People were rattling off all the answers and then he put the photo of a WW1 veteran on the screen and ONE student out of the 1200 in the gymnasium knew who this man was. He was a fighter pilot that died serving our country and was an alumni of Crescent Heights.
Vince then after noticing some students were starting to get a little restless asked the entire gym to close their eyes and imagine the one person they loved the most was on the phone with them from Afghanistan. Telling them how they were getting leave early and would be home for Christmas but not to tell the family.
Then in his slide show presentation came the sounds of an IED exploding, followed by machine guns and then said to everyone in the gym “That person you were just speaking with is gone” you could hear a pin drop. Looking around there were some students is tears as people don’t really take the time to think about whether you are for or against why our troops are in Afghanistan they are somebodies father, mother, brother, or sister.
He then went to a group of girls in the school and asked them if they enjoyed going to school and told them they couldn’t go anymore. Asked them if they disagreed with him and he said if this was Afghanistan before our troops went there you would be killed not only for wanting to continue to go to school but for going against the Taliban.
I’ve been running Thankasoldier.net and other efforts for our troops for almost five years now and today hit me. If you had asked me before today if anyone notable went to my high school i would have told you Allanis Morrisette and Dan Akroyd but now after today I will be searching to see what veterans went to my high school and look up the history of that. For that I wanted to say thank you to Cpl Vince Fowler for making me realize that. For that few seconds, I felt like I was back in high school and had some home work of my own to do.
For me Remembrance Day has always been a special day and especially in the last few years, meeting so many families of our fallen soldiers and introducing them to each other. I am by no means perfect, I’m human and today’s presentation has made me look at Remembrance day in a whole knew light.
I can only hope that some of the students that attended that today were as affected as I was, and judging by the looks on their faces when it was over and hearing some of the conversations taking place, I know they were.