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Students recognized for kindness at Vimy Ridge ceremony

Thank you - Dale Blast and Jeff Sager, left, along with Mount Forest Legion Branch 134 president Ken Thompson and provincial chair for youth education Derek Moore, right, are joined by some of the students and teachers at Wellington Heights Secondary School in Mount Forest who attended the Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary Memorial Service. The students made room for Blast and Sager and their wives to sit with them when they were evicted from sitting on the grass near the front, allowing the foursome a great view of the proceedings. Without the help of the students, the group would have had to stand at the back of the crowd of 25,000.   Photo by Lynne Turner

Students recognized for kindness at Vimy Ridge ceremony

by Lynne Turner

MOUNT FOREST - A group of Mount Forest high school students who attended the Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary Memorial Service this spring have been called “the kindest Canadian kids we have ever seen” by Legion members who met up with them there.

Dale Blast of Stratford and Jeff Sager of St. Marys, along with their wives, were in France for the April 9 ceremony wearing “full Legion dress attire.”

It was a very hot day and when they arrived in the early afternoon the crowd of 25,000 had already filled all the available seats.

“We were doomed to stand for the whole ceremony at the back,” said Blast, youth education chair of Legion Branch 8 in Stratford.

“Undaunted we squeezed our way to the front right corner of the seating area and sat on the grass along the edge of the fence.”

But as the 4pm start time approached, security officials told the group to leave the area.

“We found seats for our wives by negotiation, but my friend Jeff and I were looking like we were about to be sent to the back of the crowd,” said Blast.

It was then that the two men “heard a bunch of young voices saying, ‘You can sit with us’, and magically two seats opened up in our area by them compressing their seats and we were saved from expulsion ...

“The show that day was phenomenal, we saw all the princes, the prime minister, the governor general and the president of France up close - memories for our lifetimes, enhanced by an act of kindness which we will not forget.”

The students had been reserving their seats at the front since 8:30am.

Blast and Sager came to Wellington Heights Secondary School in Mount Forest on June 9 to meet the students and present the school with a certificate of appreciation and the framed story of what the students had done for them in France.

“You are the nicest kids in the province,” Blast told the Wellington North students.  

“Jeff and I would not have seen the show if it hadn’t been for you guys.”

Derek Moore, a member of Mount Forest Legion Branch 134 and provincial chair for youth education, heard the story about how local students helped the group see the Vimy Ridge ceremony when he was in Stratford last month helping with the provincial public speaking competition.

Blast was helping out at the event.

Moore decided the students should be recognized by the Legion and he invited the men to meet with the students in Mount Forest.

“You brought great pride not only to your school and your community, this town, but you did a wonderful thing,” Moore told the young people.

Twenty-eight Wellington Heights Secondary School students, three teachers and two parent chaperones were in France from April 3 to 13.

The Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary Memorial Service, touted as “the largest gathering abroad of Canadians since World War II”, was attended by huge numbers of Canadian students, teachers and parents, including others from Wellington County, along with veterans and military people of all types.

June 16, 2017


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