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Veterans honoured at Sydney Academy Remembrance service

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Veterans honoured at Sydney Academy Remembrance service

Post by Guest on Wed 09 Nov 2016, 16:14

Veterans honoured at Sydney Academy Remembrance service

Nancy King
Published on November 09, 2016

Canadian Army veteran Ron Clarke of Georges River, who gained national exposure in the fight to reopen the Sydney Veterans Affairs office, served as guest speaker during the school’s annual Remembrance Day service Wednesday.

SYDNEY — If you really believe in something, you have to be willing to fight for it.

That was the message that Ron Clarke, a 36-year veteran with the Canadian Army, left with students at Sydney Academy Wednesday, where he served as guest speaker for the school’s annual Remembrance Day service.

Clarke embodied that philosophy as he and other Cape Breton veterans attempted to fight the former Conservative government’s decision to close Veterans Affairs offices, including the office in Sydney.

Clarke noted the high-profile fight made him a bit of a television star in Cape Breton.

“If you feel you are right, don’t give up, fight for what you believe in and hopefully you’ll succeed,” the North Sydney native and resident of Georges River said.

Clarke and other local veterans who fought the closure of the offices and rallied the public in support of the cause won a commitment from the Trudeau government to reopen the offices and Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking noted in his remarks that the office’s opening is planned for Thursday.

In his lengthy career with the Canadian forces, Clarke was posted to locations including Germany, Cyprus, the Northwest Territories and Namibia. While he described them as the best years of his life, Clarke said it was his experiences while he was stationed in Vietnam that eventually led to his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2002, 10 years after his retirement.

He noted that, in order to appear at the ceremony, it was necessary for him to take medication to treat the disorder.

“I saw many young children who never had the opportunity to get the education you’re getting,” Clarke said, noting they were living in metal shacks without clean water and with little food.

“Those things affected me.”

Eyking noted that not far away from the school in Open Hearth Park, a line of 128 Canadian flags is flying, with each flag representing 1,000 Canadians who gave up their lives in the fight for freedom and democracy.

“We should always take care of veterans when they come home,” he said, noting many do so with broken bodies and with emotional problems as a result of their experiences.

“May we always remember the sacrifice.”

Students at the school staged a dramatic presentation of “In Flanders Fields.” In what is an annual ritual at the high school’s service, tribute was also paid to the “fallen heroes” of Sydney Academy — people who attended the school that paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of Canada.

It was noted that many of those who were remembered were the same age as the students themselves when they served.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 138 in Ashby also served as guest legion during the Sydney Academy ceremony.


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