Canada's veterans honoured at Remembrance Day ceremonies in Fort McMurray

The family of Gordon White, a local Indigenous man who died in the Vietnam War, was the Memorial Family at this year’s ceremonies.

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Lance Corporal Gordon White volunteered to walk point in his patrol in Vietnam’s Quảng Nam province on March 12, 1969. At this point in the Vietnam War, the region was nicknamed the Arizona Territory and was home to some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Much of the combat was against well-trained soldiers with the North Vietnamese Army.

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After taking point, the Marine behind him tripped over a well-hidden booby trap. The explosion killed both men.

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“What Gordon did in volunteering that day—in a dangerous area at a dangerous time, knowing that a number of his platoon has recently recently been killed—he took, in my view and experience in the Arizona Territory, it took a great deal of courage to do that,” said Dana Urban, another Marine who served with White in Vietnam. “He took the risks that day to protect his fellow Marines. He laid down his life for them and to me, he was a hero.”

White’s family was honoured as this year’s Memorial Family at Remembrance Day ceremonies in Fort McMurray. White was an Indigenous man who was born and raised in Fort McMurray in 1945. His father and an uncle fought in the Second World War, his brothers served in the Korean War and a peacekeeping mission to Cyprus. Another uncle served in the Royal Canadian Navy.

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White enlisted in the Marines after briefly working at the Great Canadian Oil Sands (GCOS) Company. He  met Urban, another Canadian now living in Edmonton, during basic training in California.

“We call them a family of warriors whom we remember and we cherish their memories on November 11 every year,” said White’s nephew, Rick.

White’s sister, Penny Fedora, recalled fondly how he sang to her Johnny Darrell’s Green Green Grass of Home. After singing, White told her to take care of their parents if he died.

“My song to Gordy is Never Not Remember You. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Let us remember,” she said.

Canada’s veterans honoured at local ceremonies

About 1,500 people attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at MacDonald Island Park and at the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Waterways. The ceremony at MacDonald Island Park was led by Mike Gray, president of the local Legion branch.

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Gray, a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, reminded people that this year marks the 75th anniversary of Canada’s contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. Since 1948, more than 125,000 Canadians have deployed on these missions.

There are currently more than 3,000 Canadians deployed around the world on 33 different missions. These include counter narcotics operations in the Caribbean, enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea, airlift support in Africa, and deterrence measures in Europe. At home, troops have been sent on arctic sovereignty patrols and disaster response missions.

“To properly take up the torch and honour those who have set themselves to the task of protector of our nation, both past and present, we must fully embrace our duty of healing our nation’s warriors,” said Gray. “Service under the constant threat of violence and the readiness to do violence when necessary takes an extreme toll on one’s soul.”

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There were also speeches by Mayor Sandy Bowman, and UCP MLA and Minister Brian Jean. Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, attended ceremonies at CFB Cold Lake. Her constituency assistant represented her.

“We are here to pay honour and tribute to all those who are willing to take the stand to protect and serve and say the words ‘not on my watch,’” said Robert Parmenter, pastor at McMurray Gospel Assembly and the legion branch’s padre. “We must never forget the sacrifice of the youth innocence or even life itself that our comrades in arms have often made and continue to make to this day.”

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The Royal Canadian Legion’s Pipe and Drum Band marches at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
The Royal Canadian Legion’s Pipe and Drum Band marches at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Dana Urban speaks in honour of Lance Corporal Gordon White at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. He is joined by White’s sister, Penny Fedora, and his nephew, Rick White. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Dana Urban speaks in honour of Lance Corporal Gordon White at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. He is joined by White’s sister, Penny Fedora, and his nephew, Rick White. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mike Gray stands by an Air Cadet reading ‘In Flanders Field” at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mike Gray stands by an Air Cadet reading ‘In Flanders Field” at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
The march past at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
The march past at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A firefighter with the Fort McMurray Fire Department salutes at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A firefighter with the Fort McMurray Fire Department salutes at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A soldier with the King’s Own Calgary Regiment marches at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A soldier with the King’s Own Calgary Regiment marches at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Dale Bendfeld at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Dale Bendfeld at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Colonel Kevin Weidlich at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Colonel Kevin Weidlich at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
remembrance
Wood Buffalo RCMP officers march at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Air Cadets at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Air Cadets at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mike Gray, president of Legion Branch 165 in Waterways, speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mike Gray, president of Legion Branch 165 in Waterways, speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pastor Robert Parmenter speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pastor Robert Parmenter speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A cap rests on a rifle at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A cap rests on a rifle at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
UCP MLA and Minister Brian Jean speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
UCP MLA and Minister Brian Jean speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
remembrance day
Pat Duggan and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

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