Each year in July the Legion organizes an annual Pilgrimage of Remembrance to perpetuate the remembrance of those Canadians who fought and died for our Country. The Pilgrimage visits World War 1 and World War 2 battlefields, the Cemeteries where our fallen are buried and the Monuments to their valor. Dominion Command of The Royal Canadian Legion sponsors 10 Youth Leaders, each of who is selected by a Provincial Command. Individual Branches, Commands and Government Departments are encouraged to sponsor additional persons. The participants are selected on the following basis:
- age of majority,
- Legion Member,
- activities as leaders of; Youth Groups, such as Teachers, Instructors, Coaches, and
- the ability to pass on the experiences gained not only to their own group, but also to other groups, especially youth
Nova Scotia / Nunavut Command's selection for the 2009 Pilgrimage of Remembrance was David Andrews, Truro N.S., former Zone 10 Commander. A few thoughts and tips regarding his trip follow.
To be selected for this pilgrimage you must fill out an application form the year prior to the trip, this form and deadline information is available from the NS/NU Command office. While you are waiting to hear if you have been selected, it is advisable to make sure your passport and other relevant papers are up to date as you will have to provide all this information to Dominion Command so they can make all your travel arrangements.
This pilgrimage will take two (2) weeks from the day you take off to the day you return. During these two weeks you will experience feelings and emotions of all sorts as you visit sites of many of the Battles of World War I and World War II.
I am sure that each tour includes some of the sites we visited in 2009, such as, Juno Beach, Vimy, Pashendale, the Somme, Menin Gate, Essex Farm, Flanders, Dieppe, Groesbeek, St Julien, the Abbaye Ardenne and so many more.
During the 2009 pilgrimage we held 15 Memorial Services in a ten day period. You will be expected to take part in each of them in one manner or another. In 2009, I laid the wreath at Beny-sur-Mer, where my Great Uncle is buried. During the other fourteen services I was given other duties. I was in the colour party for most of them but, you may be requested to be the Sgt-at-Arms, wreath carrier, or a Member of the parade. In all the services you will be given the opportunity to lay your poppy at each site.
Along with the duties you will be given at the services during the pilgrimage, you will also be expected to be ready to make appearances throughout your Command upon your return to educate and inform others of this great program and the importance of Remembrance.
During the 2009 pilgrimage we also had a few impromtu moments where we held a small informal "service". At Essex Farm, we just could'nt leave without stopping at the entrance and recited "In Flanders Field". At Dieppe, on the request of a member of the pilgrimage we met on the beach at 5:22 AM, the time our boys landed, and gave a toast to all the brave men who fought there. To end a few other services, where a member of the tour had a special connection, there were a couple of times that someone would read a special poem or reading.
As we visited the different cemeteries we are given Canadian flags that we placed on graves of the men there. Of course we did'nt have time to lay one on each and every one of them, but it is the thought that we may be placing it on a grave of a man who's family may never get there to pay respects themselves that made it special to me. Of course at some cememtries I was able to place one on the grave of a fellow from my hometown, those were special moments. To all of you Legionaires, please consider this program as one of the greatest chances for anyone to really see and learn about the wars. it is an emotional and educational experience that would be hard to rival in any way.
In additioin to all the duties and services involved in being a pilgrim, you will make a number of new friends from across this great country. Trust me when I say, you will share a special connection with each and every one of your travelling companions for the rest of your life.
Pilgrim - 2009