Villanova honours veterans with stirring Remembrance Day ceremony



By Ron Giofu


Students and staff at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School paid tribute to those who served with a stirring ceremony last Friday morning.

As 300 white crosses adorned the front lawn of the County Road 8 school, staff and students were joined by area veterans and their families in the gymnasium for a service that lasted just over one hour. A bagpiper led veterans and their families into the school’s gymnasium where students and staff paid tribute to them and reminded one another of the importance of Remembrance Day and the service of veterans.

The families of veterans Glenn Dibbley and John White were on hand, with both veterans having been described as people who often educated youth about their service and the sacrifices of others.

A group of local veterans observe the Remembrance Day ceremony held at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School Nov. 7.

Master Corporal Mike Akpata, an Afghanistan veteran, spoke to the students about his experiences and the difficulties he and his comrades went through both in battle and since they have come home.

“Afghanistan was not peacemaking. It was not peacekeeping. It was war,” said Akpata, who pointed out the Taliban fired at them as soon as they arrived.

“They attacked us the minute we got off the plane,” he recalled.

Akpata, now a town councillor in LaSalle, recalled laying on the ground with a wounded member of his regiment waiting for a helicopter to come. He also recalled losing a friend when they stepped on a landmine.

After returning home, Akpata said it wasn’t always easy to readjust for him or his colleagues.

“Coming home is hard,” he said.

Adjusting to the life they once had is not easy and Akpata noted that it is very difficult to shut down the adrenaline they had in battle.

“When we come home and people say, ‘it’s over,’ it’s not over,” he said. “It stays with you.”

Master Cpl. Michael Akpata speaks to the Villanova students during the Remembrance Day ceremony Nov. 9.

Noting that many have committed suicide since returning from Afghanistan, he said many couldn’t cope after returning home. Smells can stir up memories, he noted.

Akpata urged all students to do something with their lives, regardless of what that something is, as they have the freedom that people like him and his regiment and other veterans fought for.

“We want you to know the freedom you have came with a price,” he said. “For you as the next generation, I don’t want you to experience war. I also don’t want you to take what you have for granted. All I ask is for you to do something. Revel in your freedom, but the gift that was given can be taken away.”

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