The Royal City is doing its part to honour soldiers who fought for freedom and to ensure that their acts of bravery aren’t forgotten.
Launched in Edmonton in 2011, the No Stone Left Alone project aims to place a poppy on soldiers’ headstones across the county. It’s expected that more than 7,500 students across Canada will lay 51,827 poppies on soldiers’ graves in 100 cemeteries across Canada in time for Remembrance Day.
“This is an amazing project,” said Karen Baker-MacGrotty, who spearheaded the initiative in New Westminster. “I think it is going to grow and grow and grow.”
Baker-MacGrotty, honorary colonel of The Royal Westminster Regiment, recently spoke to No Stone Left Alone’s B.C. organizer about getting the program going in New West.
“It was all about educating the children,” she said, “educating our young people about reflecting what our soldiers’ sacrifices are all about, about how they give their lives willingly.”
On Nov. 5, community members gathered at the veterans’ section in Fraser Cemetery to place poppies on soldiers’ graves.
“The poppy ceremony is very solemn, it’s very reflective. They stand behind a headstone. They kneel down and they place the poppy onto the stone. They step back and read the name of the soldier out loud and they take a moment of silence,” said Baker-MacGrotty. “I got chills up the back of my neck. When you read what it says on that stone, it has a big impact. It is a powerful message.”
While soldiers are buried in different areas of Fraser Cemetery, Baker-MacGrotty said there’s a dedicated military section that has about 450 military graves.
Piper Mitchell Bain, a Seaforth Highlander cadet instructor, and an eight-piece band of The Royal Westminster Regiment performed at the inaugural No Stone Left Alone event in New Westminster, which was attended by about 200 people. Youths from a variety of organizations, including Miss New Westminster Hyack Festival ambassadors, Royal Canadian Army cadets, St. John Ambulance cadet corps, Boy Scouts and others, joined representatives from The Royal Westminster Regiment, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 2 Senator Yonah Martin and other citizens in placing poppies on soldiers’ graves.
“I can see this growing,” Baker-MacGrotty said. “This is in every single province. It’s from coast to coast and in every territory. It’s a partnership program with the schools.”
Some Richard McBride Elementary School students participated in this year’s No Stone Left Alone event in New West.
“McBride school is our first school. Next year it is going to be bigger with McBride School,” Baker-MacGrotty said. “I would love to see all the schools involved next year.”
Representatives of the Poppy Project brought a blanket adorned by hundreds of handmade poppies to the No Stone Left Alone event. The blanket is on display at River Market until Friday, Nov. 10 and then at Royal City Centre from Saturday, Nov. 11 to Monday, Nov. 13.
“I’m moved, absolutely moved. What I am seeing is there is a collaboration between citizens. The Poppy Project and No Stone Left Alone, these projects are all being done by general people,” said Baker-MacGrotty. “This is not government run, it is not politicians. What I am seeing is these are citizens in our community who are trying to reflect and remember.”
Community members are invited to the final event of this year’s No Stone Left Alone project at Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. The Baker-MacGrotty and MacGrotty family will be provide people with candles to light and place on hundreds of veteran’s graves, but people are asked to bring barbecue lighters and flashlights and to dress warm.