Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) students will soon be able to return to the battlefields and gravesites of fallen Canadian soldiers as part of the Broncs World Tour.
For over a decade, teacher Ron Labrie has guided his students on a journey to discover and uncover the biographies of all the Ponoka and area soldiers killed in action and ultimately visit their graves.
“It’s about icebergs,” Labrie said. “The tombstone is just the tip of the iceberg, but what is the story that lies beneath? Who is the soldier; what did they do in the service of the country and who were they as young people in Ponoka before the war?”
The Cenotaph Project and Broncs’ Word Tour grew out of the Year of the Veteran in 2005, where educators from across the county were invited to participate in a battlefield tour. This, combined with the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge in 2007, gave Labrie, an educator for 30 years now, the idea to launch the project.
“Due to logistics and cost, soldiers are buried where they died,” Labrie said. “For many years, there was little information available about the names of the young people inscribed on our local cenotaphs.”
Over the past decade, PSC students have uncovered the history of many of the names inscribed on the Ponoka Cenotaph.
“As we were learning about this decade-long project, we found some on the Cenotaph that actually survived the war,” Labrie said. “There are, no matter how hard we search, we can’t find any information, and then there are the very many who have been killed in service.”
Of the World War I names on the Ponoka Cenotaph, there are five names left for students to research out of 42, and five on the list of World War II names, out of 30.
“Research is the big part. It’s a great example of project-based learning,” Labrie said. “When the students receive this folder, it’s a sheaf of paper, but when they stand in front of the grave, it totally changes everything.”
As part of honoring the dead and serving as a living memory for the school, the Ponoka Secondary Campus developed the Hall of Valor displaying the names of Ponoka and area veterans. The classrooms are named after the battlefields of Canadian soldiers, such as Flanders, or Juno Beach and more recently Korea and Afghanistan.
“You have to work on remembrance,” Labrie said.
The Wolf Creek Board of Directors has approved in principle for students to travel overseas again in the 2022/23 school year for the Broncs World Tour. Approval will be reviewed prior to the new school year trip. For the past two years, the tour has been canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
– Submitted by Wolf Creek Public Schools
Wolf Creek Public Schools