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Early morning bagpipes kick off Remembrance Day in downtown Barrie

Despite public health measures amid the pandemic, officials finding ways to honour veterans; 'It doesn’t matter if it is the Battle of the Somme or Afghanistan, we need to remember them'

Finding ways to honour annual traditions safely during the pandemic has been a theme for the last 20 months and the Grey and Simcoe Foresters did just that this morning for Remembrance Day in 2021.

The bagpipes echoed throughout downtown Barrie as regimental bagpiper Scott Buchanan played before a wreath was laid at the foot of the cenotaph Thursday morning.

Laying the wreath was Grey and Simcoe Foresters Honorary Col. Kevin Carroll. He told BarrieToday this is an important day for all Canadians and needs to be observed. 

“This is our opportunity to pay tribute to them for the sacrifice they made, in all areas of conflict,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t matter if it is the Battle of the Somme or Afghanistan, we need to remember them.”

Official events at the cenotaph, located on Dunlop Street East in downtown Barrie, have been cancelled for the second consecutive year as COVID-19 protocols are in place and many veterans who take part are in a high-risk demographic due to their advanced age.

A small, private ceremony will happen today at Barrie's Royal Canadian Legion branch, but the public is asked to watch online.

Carroll says he understands those rules being in place, but added it doesn't make it any easier when you know time is of the essence to honour some of the nation’s oldest veterans. 

“Each year coming down here, there were more and more young people, which really gave me a warm heart,” he said. “I think the citizens of this city are particularly keen about honouring their veterans. It is a sad thing, because of the pandemic, that we can’t have the parade because each year there will be less and less veterans able to do that.

"But it's understandable right now and soon we will all be able to meet here at the cenotaph again.”

Grey and Simcoe Foresters Honourary Lieut.-Col. Al Jones said there was a “very interesting” aspect to large gatherings not being allowed to happen, one he finds inspiring.

“We’re busy today and off to a few locations despite the times we are in. The really inspiring part about the restrictions are the smaller towns who have found ways to have safe gatherings to honour Remembrance Day,” Jones said. “We are going to a few smaller towns around Barrie throughout the morning and it is great to see people finding a way.”