October 29th, 2020

Vacant Chair ceremony honours ultimate sacrifice


By Bobinec, Greg on November 11, 2019.

Herald photo by Greg Bobinec
Members of The Freemasons of Lethbridge walk through their annual Vacant Chair Ceremony before presenting it to the public Sunday afternoon. @GBobinecHerald

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

The Freemasons of Lethbridge welcomed the community to the Masonic Hall Sunday evening to pay their respects to the fallen men and women in wars for their annual Vacant Chair Ceremony.

The ceremony is of remembrance for those who paid the supreme sacrifice and never returned. Whether that supreme sacrifice was made in times of war, peace-keeping missions or daily law enforcement, their sacrifice for future generations to live in peace was honoured.

“The Vacant Chair Ceremony started in Australia and New Zealand after the First World War, the Battle of Gallipoli, there were tremendous losses and they went back and created this ceremony in about 1922,” says Gerald Waldern, past Grand Master. “We have been doing this since 2000 and it was to honour that brother that didn’t come back and that is what the vacant chair represents. With the Second World War, Korean War, and peace-keeping missions, that hasn’t changed anything, so that is our way to honour and respect that individual that didn’t come back.”

The annual Vacant Chair Ceremony in Lethbridge has been an important part of the Remembrance Day ceremonies, without being directly attached to the cenotaph, welcoming everyone to pay their respects and remember the sacrifices made.

“It is very important,” says Don Graham, past Grand Master and Director of Service. “It impresses upon citizens that there are remembrance services that aren’t necessarily connected with the Cenotaph and it also shows the participation of the various folks here in town, including members of the unit that is here.”

The evening is an intimate ceremony full of representatives from every quadrant to show their respects for the ones that came before. Waldern says that it is important for people to take the time to show their respects for the people who fought and died for our freedoms, and not use the holiday as just a holiday.

“The First World War guys are all gone and now most of the Second World War vets are gone and those that remain are well in their 90s, so after the last of the World War II veterans and the Korean War veterans, it’s just the peace keepers,” says Waldern. “If we don’t take this time to remember, then people forget and I think one of the sad things is that I feel like Remembrance Day has turned into a shopping day or a holiday for people and they are forgetting the sacrifices that were made.”

This year’s speaker was Major Robert Mein, currently the Commander of 41 Brigade Influence Activity Company and is scheduled to take command of the 20th Independent Field Battery in Lethbridge, in the spring of 2020. As the Vacant Chair Ceremony concluded, dozens of people and representatives took the time to remember the sacrifice soldiers, peace keepers and first responders made to make Canada a free country.

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