Bridging the generation gap – No Stone Left Alone

Wreath bearers from Rockheights Middle School take part in a moment of silence. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Wreath bearers from Rockheights Middle School take part in a moment of silence. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

It was another mission accomplished for Rockheights Middle School students and their annual quest to ensure the sacrifices of Canada’s war dead are remembered.

On Nov. 2, approximately 150 Grade 6 and 7 students fanned out across God’s Acre Veterans Cemetery and placed poppies on the over 2,000 gravesites at the national historic site in Esquimalt.

Students were joined by parents, teachers, personnel from CFB Esquimalt and veterans representing the Esquimalt Lions Club for this year’s No Stone Left Alone ceremony.

“No Stone Left Alone is an event that helps us remember the people who have long since passed,” said Jake McCulloch, a flag bearer with 2483 Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and Grade 8 student at Rockheights. “It makes me happy and proud to remember those people who are no longer alive, probably people that Jimmy knew.”

McCulloch was referring to Sergeant (Retired) Jim MacMillan-Murphy, First Vice President, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 172 and Lions Club member. MacMillan-Murphy served during Canada’s peacekeeping mission in Cyprus and delivered an emotional 10-minute address about comrades lost on the battlefield, the meaning of Remembrance Day, and details about the lives of soldiers buried at the cemetery.

In his closing comments he told the students their efforts were greatly appreciated by him and the other veterans, and currently serving military members.

“I am so proud of what the students here at Rockheights have accomplished with this ceremony,” said MacMillan-Murphy. “My heart is so full of joy, respect, and appreciation to you students. I remember what I felt like when we were under fire [in Cyprus] and you guys have helped ease that pain.”

The No Stone Left Alone movement has continued to grow in popularity since it began in Edmonton in 2011, and events were held in 55 communities across Canada this year. Last year’s events involved 8,000 students placing poppies on the headstones of more than 49,000 Canadian Armed Forces members. Rockheights Middle School became the first school in the province to participate when it held its first ceremony at God’s Acre in 2014.

Principal Maryanne Trofimuk is the coordinator for No Stone Left Alone British Columbia. She also helped to coordinate ceremonies at Hatley Memorial Gardens on Nov. 3 and at Ross Bay Cemetery on Nov. 5. She said that without the assistance of parents and her own mom, who cut more than 3,000 paper poppies by hand, and crucial logistical support from volunteers at the base, running the event would have been impossible.

“CFB Esquimalt helped a number of details come to life for us and we couldn’t have done it without their support,” said Trofimuk.

The ceremony at God’s Acre was kicked off by an official acknowledgement of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations communities before Padre Lieutenant (Navy) Andrew Klinger led the gathering in prayer and a moment’s silence. The Base Commander’s Office was represented by Chief Petty Officer Second Class Armand Reelick, Sgt Helen Pagiatakis, and Leading Seaman William Mclean. Petty Officer First Class Ben Van Slyke of the Naden Band played the Last Post and Reveille while Scott Ringrose, a civilian volunteer bagpiper from 443 MH Squadron played Lament, and also piped the student delegation into the cemetery.

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