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Hard to keep dry eyes as PTSD victims commemorated at Todmorden Legion

As dusk arrives Suraj Rajkumar blows 'Last Post' on the trumpet as the colour guard stands by. -GARY W-P

As dusk arrives Suraj Rajkumar blows ‘Last Post’ on the trumpet as the colour guard stands by. -GARY W-P

\ BY GARY WEBB-PROCTOR \

(See more photos in Gallery slideshow at end of post.)

It was hard not to feel moisture seeping from your eyes as dusk fell outside the Royal Canadian Legion Todmorden Branch #10 on Pape Ave. the evening of Sunday Sept. 24.

Renditions of scripture, performances of “Last Post” and a Scottish dirge on bagpipes was touching enough as part of a “Soldiers of Suicide” ceremony following a parade in honour of soldiers and first responders who had succumbed to suicide as a result of the trauma of their service.

But when branch member Lily Philips read a list of 23 of their names, and their ages, ranging from just 19 to 46, the abstraction of the impact of combat service and emergency work took on a stark, somber reality on realizing how the 22 men and one woman had been lost in the prime of their lives.

Led by bagpiper Michael Maehle, the parade sets off from the corner of Woodville and Donlands towards the Todmorden Legion. GARY W-P

Led by bagpiper Michael Maehle, the parade sets off from the corner of Woodville and Donlands towards the Todmorden Legion. GARY W-P

Government representatives including Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin, MPP for the riding Peter Tabuns and Ward 29 Councillor Mary Fragedakis, along with families and friends of the victims, helped to place candles representing them —plus one “for those whose names can’t be used at the request of their families”— in a heart-shaped display placed below the branch’s permanent SOS commemorative plaque.

The parade of about 150 participants, including a colour guard, veterans, cadets, emergency service personnel, Legion members, families and others, had proceeded in sunshine escorted by Toronto Police Service members along Woodville Avenue just south of O’Connor Drive from Donlands to the branch’s property at 1083 Pape Ave.

By the time the complimentary tea lights for spectators and the commemorative candles were lit, dark was closing in and respectful silences punctuated the affair.

The gathering also heard a scripture reading by Rev. Alex Bisset, a solo performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Scott Newlands, a bagpipes lament from Michael Maehle, a plaque and wreath dedication and benediction by Kelly Jackson, an original poem about service trauma by Corp. Paul Jarrett and a description of the importance of providing support to traumatized military and emergency workers by the branch’s president, P.J. O’Neill.

 

Veterans salute and bow heads in commemoration after laying wreath underneath SOS plaque. -GARY W-P

Veterans salute and bow heads in commemoration after laying wreath underneath SOS plaque. -GARY W-P

Recalling that “in World War I they called it ‘Shell Shock’, in World War II it was ‘Combat Fatigue’ and now it’s ‘PTSD —Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’,”— Mr. O’Neill noted that Branch 10 is “open to providing support to anyone suffering from this, whether or not they are a Legion member.”

The branch is the only one in the Toronto area with an S.O.S. plaque and took the initiative to hold the march and dedication while the Invictus Games were going on in the city “because ‘Invictus’ means ‘not vanquished’” and the branch wanted to ensure the memory of those who fell after their service is also preserved.

Also on hand was Mike Hurley, manager of the Highway of Heroes living tribute.  Earlier this summer, as previously reported in the Chronicle, the branch also created a memorial garden on the south side of its property for those service personnel who fell in combat.

For more information about the branch’s SOS program contact Lily Phillips, Secretary & Special Events Chair, RCL Branch 10 at 647-762-8438.  Her email is br10secretary@gmail.com

 

GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM SOS PARADE & CEREMONY

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