No Stone Left Alone bridges generation gap

Students from Cedar High Middle School participate in the annual No Stone Left Alone program Nov. 3 placing painted rocks onto the headstones at St. Luke’s Cemetary in Saanich to commemorate Canadian Soldiers. Photos supplied.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

Ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies, Grade 6, 7 and 8 students from Rockheights and Cedar Hill Middle School visited the gravesites of veterans to remember the sacrifices and pay their respects while leaving poppy-painted stones on their headstones.

They were among thousands of students across the country taking part in the annual Remembrance Day scholastic program, No Stone Left Alone (NSLA).

“It makes Remembrance Day more meaningful,” says Christina Pelletier, Vice-Principal at Rockheights Middle School. “The act of painting poppies onto rocks and then placing them on headstones honours the soldiers and creates a greater appreciation for all of those who served.”

The annual campaign was launched in 2011 by Edmonton’s Maureen G. Bianchni to recognize the nation’s fallen.

Soggy cold weather greeted Cedar Hill Middle School students on Nov. 3 at St. Luke’s Cemetery in Saanich and Rockheights Middle School students on Nov. 4 at God’s Acre Veterans Cemetery in Esquimalt.

The NSLA’s goal is to educate and engage youth in honouring every soldier who has fought for Canadian freedoms, says Maryanne Trofimuk, Principal at Cedar Hill Middle School.

“Hands were red, glasses were fogging, knees were knocking, but the spirit was strong,” Trofimuk said.

Trofimuk was previously the Principal at Rock Heights when her school became the first in the province to organize a No Stone Left Alone ceremony at the request of retired major-gen Cam Ross. This was Rockheights Middle School’s ninth No Stone Left Alone Ceremony.

Despite braving rain, wind and cold temperatures, standing out in the cold for a short time was nothing compared to what soldiers at war go through, said Gio, a Grade 8 student from Rockheights Middle School.

“I think it’s very important we do this ceremony and remember those who served in the Canadian Forces and what they went through,” Gio said.

Gio was a flag-bearer for the students’ march from their school to the cemetery and also spoke about the importance of laying wreaths at cenotaphs during the ceremony. Grade 7 student Zempei read aloud the poem In Flanders Fields and agreed with Gio about the importance of NSLA.

“Remembering the soldiers that have fought in wars for Canada and have given us the freedom and peace we enjoy is important, but I think we should be doing more to honour them since they made such huge sacrifices for us,” Zempei said.

Retired commander Rod Hughes, Director of the Naval Association of Canada Vancouver Island Branch, said NLSA was an excellent teaching opportunity for schools.

“I was thoroughly impressed and in awe of the scope and organization of this ceremony,” Hughes said. “If you want to connect with kids about the importance of Remembrance Day, this is the way to do it.”

Hughes’ father, Rear-Admiral Bill Hughes, past commander of Maritime Forces Pacific and his mother, Mariam Hughes, are both buried at God’s Acre.

No Stone Left Alone also involves an in-class educational component for students. At Cedar Hill, this included a writing exercise where students write letters home from the front lines, assuming the identity of a soldier.

“The letters evoke a feeling of hardship that these military members faced when they left their homes and families in the name of service to their country,” Trofimuk said. “When a student reads these stories aloud to their classmates, they listen and remember.”

CFB Esquimalt’s Office of the Base Commander supported both events by providing speakers, podiums, chairs, and military members in dress uniforms.

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