Grade 7 students from Rockheights middle school had an interesting field trip recently; they were at the God’s Acre Cemetery in Esquimalt to clean off the headstones of veterans who rest there.
“We like to come down at this time of the year in the spring when the weather is nice to give back to the community,” said teacher Sean Rumble. “About a quarter of the students at Rockheights are part of military families, so it’s important to us and to the community.”
Every year, students read the names and dates on the headstones and find a lot of meaning in reflecting on the fallen military members’ lives, he said, especially those youth who have relatives in the cemetery.
“It’s just another connection to people that matter,” Rumble added.
The cleaning is in preparation for a larger ceremony happening May 31 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the cemetery. The candlelight vigil includes a visit from the new Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, as well as the Veterans Ombudsman, Guy Parent.
Students interviewed by the News felt it was a worthwhile way to spend their time. “I feel good because we’re helping people, making it look pretty and honouring them I guess,” said Emily Renaud.
Others were conscientious about their actions at the cemetery.
“I just want to avoid disrespecting anyone here today, because I feel it’s pretty easy to do something disrespectful at a grave site,” said Fallon Brodie, “I think we should do it more often.”
Added schoolmate Domanic Bland: “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, it’s pretty fun,” he said. “It’s respectful for the people who died and stuff like that, you want to keep gravestones clean.”
Some students spoke about members of their families who served in the Canadian military. They found it very meaningful to work amongst the graves.
“My great-grandpa on my dad’s side served in the military as a gunner on the ship, his name was Lucas Abercrombie,” said Drew Abercrombie. “He died when I was three months old so I never got to meet him … It’s pretty cool just to see everyone serving the military over the years, especially the older people in World War One and Two, and to honour them here today is pretty cool.”
“My old family members were in the military,” added Sean Robertson. “It’s great because we get to give back to the community for what they did for us, and it’s nice to see that everybody’s giving respect.”
The candlelight vigil is open to the public and begins at 6:45 p.m. on May 31. The cemetery is accessible via 1190 Colville Rd., between the 12th and 17th holes at Gorge Vale Golf Club.