REGINA – A group of elementary students at St. Andrews School in Regina held a Remembrance Day service Tuesday to honour fallen soldiers of the world wars.
These students don’t just commemorate soldiers once a year – they are dedicated to honouring Canada’s military service all year long.
It began in 2007 when a group of St. Andrew students under the guidance of teacher Carolynne Kobelsky purchased a brick at the Juno Beach Centre to commemorate a Regina rifle, Allan Joseph Kennedy.
While the centre selected Kennedy from a name out of a hat from the Juno Beach Honour Roll, Kobelsky and her students were dedicated to find out as much information as they could about his life – and death.
Allan was on D-Day on June 5, 1944.
“The Regina Rifle Regiment, went furthest inland on D-Day, further than any other military troops that day, to secure their objectives. Allan Kennedy was a signaler for B Company. The Rifles made it to Fontaine-Henri late afternoon on D-Day. He was killed by a German sniper at the foot of the church,” Kobelsky explained.
It is very satisfying to correspond with families of soldiers who were killed in action and for whom we can fill in the gaps. Most of these families have never learned what happened to their loved ones.
The project was the birth of a new remembrance club – the Club du Souvenir.
“Once or twice a year, we’ll get documents from the archives and we’ll find the regiment number, where they enlisted from and their family. That’s just really interesting to learn about someone who fought for your country,” said Ainsley Priddell, a Grade 8 Club du Souvenir member.
Now in its ninth year, dozens of students sign up each year to be a part of Club du Souvenir.
“My dad taught history and I was always interested in history and war and stuff and I kind of just wanted to know a little more,” said Maxwell McFadden, another Grade 8 Club du Souvenir member.
Another member, Madison Randall said, “I (first) came to the school in grade four. I saw my first Remembrance Day ceremony here and I said, ‘Wow, that was amazing. I love that.’ And I figured out that Club du Souvenir was a part of that so I really just wanted to be a part of that amazing ceremony.”
She added, “”A lot of people don’t remember all year round, but in Club, that’s what it’s all about.”
The students meet once a week to do research. They visit veterans and send cards and care packages to active military men and women. This Remembrance Day, they surprised the Royal Canadian Legion and the Regina Rifles with over $500 they collected from school recycling.
“I was shocked. These kids are amazing,” said Terrance Lorne Duncan, the Royal Canadian Legion Regina branch sergeant-at-arms. “There’s a lot of work to do and they do a lot of work. As they learn the lesson, younger children are wanting to become members.”
This fall, their hard work has paid off – they were able to find soldier Allan Kennedy’s family.
“Just out of the blue, in September, I got an email from his brother,” said Kobelsky. “You can just hear in his emails how thankful he is and that heartfelt gratitude that he has.”
Roy Kennedy was born in 1945 after his brother Allan had already been killed and so knew very little about him.
In his email Roy wrote, “I was doing a search for my brother Rifleman Allan Joseph Kennedy of the Regina Rifles and came upon an article regarding your school buying a brick to honour him…I would like to thank you and behalf of my family for this honouring a man for giving his life to help provide us with our freedom.”
“It is very satisfying to correspond with families of soldiers who were killed in action and for whom we can fill in the gaps. Most of these families have never learned what happened to their loved ones. We are proud to do what we do – getting an email that says “thank you, now I know” is the best recognition and the best thank you we can get. We have made a difference for them and that’s one very important thing for us,” said Kobelsky.