This years’ Central Memorial Park Remembrance Day service made history when the the first wreath was laid to honour the service of LGBTQ men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces.
To commemorate the LGBTQ soldiers’ service in Canada’s First and Second World Wars, LGBTQ activist Ron Eberly, while dressed in drag, laid a rainbow embellished wreath against the Central Memorial Park Cenotaph statue on Nov. 11.
The Cenotaph was erected in 1924 to honour all Canadian soldiers who fought in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.
“It was honestly a great experience to be able to witness an historical event like that,” said Chelsey Vellacott, who attended the ceremony.
“It’s the first gay pride wreath ever laid in Calgary.
“It’s a big deal.”
Vellacott had never attended a Remembrance Day service before.
She said the act of Eberly had made her realize how difficult it would have been for LGBTQ men and women to be themselves during a very difficult time.
“They would’ve constantly been hiding their true self, all while fighting for Canada’s freedom,” said Vellacott.
“I think they deserve extra credit for that because they died hiding who they are just to protect us.”
Craig Ebel, a Calgary freelance photographer who attended the service, said he was honoured to photograph the rainbow wreath.
“Anyone who’s gone into battle deserves to be remembered,” said Ebel.
“No matter who they are, they deserve recognition, and it’s nice to finally see an attempt towards that.”
Dozens of wreaths were laid around the 92-year-old Cenotaph, but Ebel said “the rainbow wreath stood out the most.”
“It’s a beautiful thought,” said Ebel.
Although many guests at the ceremony were respectful towards the laying of the first rainbow wreath, it made a few other guests feel uncomfortable.
Lawrence Oshanek has been part of the Central Memorial Park Remembrance Day service for 47 years, laying wreaths in memory of the fallen soldiers.
Oshanek said that all soldiers are remembered for simply fighting for justice and freedom, and that sexual preference has never made a difference.
“I don’t care if they are gay or not, they we’re still soldiers,” said Oshanek.
“We remember them for fighting for our freedom, and not for being gay.
“It doesn’t even matter because, either way, we’re still recognizing them for fighting for us,” he said.