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Students place poppies on veterans' headstones in No Stone Left Alone ceremonies

Students from four local schools are honouring the sacrifices of those who served in past conflicts by placing a poppy on every veteran’s headstone leading up to Remembrance Day, as part of the No Stone Left Alone initiative.

Launched in 2011, the No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation engages youth across Canada to perform a ­personal act of remembrance and respect by placing a poppy on a soldier’s headstone. Prior to the ceremony, it provides material for educators to teach students about Canada’s military history.

In 2019, about 12,000 students from 127 schools across the country placed about 64,500 poppies in 121 cemeteries.

This year, about 1,000 students from four local middle schools — Central, Glanford, Rockheights and Cedar Hill — took part, visiting veterans’ graves at God’s Acre, Ross Bay Cemetery, Royal Oak Burial Park and St. Luke’s Anglican Church.

“It’s a good experience for the kids. They get so much more by being out there, among the graves, than hearing about it in a school gym,” said Maryanne Trofimuk, a teacher at Cedar Hill Middle School. “The veterans are always excited to see us and we always get words of thanks.”

Usually held the week prior to Remembrance Day, the ceremonies typically include serving military personnel and veterans.

At this week’s ceremonies, students read stories and poems and sung songs that they wrote, all inspired by soldiers’ correspondence with their loved ones. A piper played the Last Post on bagpipes.

Cedar Hill Grade 8 student Yasmina Barnacha read a story she wrote after reading 36 letters between soldiers and their loved ones.

“My story was a message of sacrifice made. These were heartfelt letters to loved ones and how much they missed being home,” said Yasmina, 13. “But the letters also spoke of their belief that they had an important job to do and for some, the sacrifices they had to make in the fight for liberty.”

This year, students placed poppies painted on rocks on headstones.

“The No Stone Left Alone experience leaves a lasting legacy for the students,” said Trofimuk.