BASS RIVER – The mood was somber, the pipes and drums playing in the background, as Andrew Fitzgerald’s family quietly remembered the 19-year-old.
During the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers ceremony held at the Veterans Memorial Park, the late teenager was honoured with a planting of a dappled maple tree. The Cape North teenager had recently graduated from infantry training to become part of the Royal Canadian Regiment.
His mother, Andrea, shoveled some mulch from a container, placing it around the tree’s trunk. She then spread it apart, and brought out a small vial. With her husband, George, standing behind her, she spread some of their son’s ashes in with the mulch, and added more to the top.
Every year, the ceremony honours all those who served as peacekeepers, and remembers those lost. This year, it was the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Truce Supervision Organization, created to monitor the ceasefire, the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours following the Arab-Iraeli war, which was the first UN peacekeeping mission.
Addressing the crowd, Ken Jamieson, of the Cobequid Veterans Memorial Park committee, said MP Bill Casey had hoped to be there, however was unable to drive due to a health issue at the time. So, Jamieson told a story Casey brought to the committee last year.
“When he first got back into politics the second time, he was on a trip to the Middle East,” Jamieson explained. “While he was over there, he had the opportunity to visit the Gaza War Cemetery. As he was going through there, he found there were 23 graves for Canadians that were killed – 22 of those were killed between 1956 and 1967, while serving with the United Nations. He thought, how strange that those would be there.”
Back on Parliament Hill, Casey learned it wasn’t the policy of the government at the time when someone was killed while serving to bring their remains back home, so they were buried in the cemetery.
“We were very touched by this,” said Jamieson. “We did our research on the committee, and we had all the names put on our Supreme Sacrifice stone in order to be able to say to Mr. Casey, they will be remembered for their service and duty to their country. This is what we do at the Veterans Memorial Park, is remember all who have served and continue to serve.”
The ceremony included the laying of close to a dozen wreaths at the cenotaph. Alister Hamilton, with the Antigonish Highlanders, stood in period dress and fired blanks into the sky. Angela Reid, who lost her son, Chris, while he served in Afghanistan, read a poem written by veteran Herb Peppard. The ceremony started with a veterans motorcycle parade, with cyclists and the public lining the outskirts of the park, awaiting the veterans parade.