Commemorative Services for Military Veterans

Holding ceremonies, and passing on the traditions of remembrance, is one of the important ways we have of showing our appreciation to the Veterans, and their families, or the losses and sacrifices they endured.

A Suggested Service of Remembrance:

  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Poems
  3. Prayer
  4. Act of Remembrance
  5. Last Post (Bugler)
  6. Silence (Two minutes)
  7. Lament (Piper)
  8. Reveille (Bugler)
  9. Wreath Laying (as an option, a hymn can be performed during the wreath laying)
  10. Blessing
  11. National Anthem(s)

Act of Remembrance

The Act of Remembrance is a stanza from a poem written by Laurence Binyon, entitled For the Fallen. A veteran usually recites this if one is present at the ceremony.

They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

RESPONSE: We will remember them

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Last Post

The Last Post is played by a bugler or prerecorded. If no bugler or recording is available, this piece is best omitted. Traditionally, the Last Post is played at the end of the day to signal lights out. In a commemorative service, it symbolizes death.

If the National Flag is flown from a flagpole at the cenotaph or memorial, it is lowered to the half-mast position, during the playing of the Last Post.

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Two Minutes Silence

The custom of observing two minutes of silence for a nation’s war dead originated after World War 1. The observance lasts from a few moments to full two minutes.

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The Lament is played by a piper or prerecorded. If no piper or recording is available, this piece is best omitted. The traditional military lament played is Flowers of the Forest. Other laments or hymns may be played such as Amazing Grace.

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Reveille is played by a bugler or prerecorded. If no bugler or recording is available, this piece is best omitted. Reveille is the first call sounded in the morning and is used as a wake up call. During the ceremony, it is played to signify the resurrection of the spirit of the fallen.

If the National Flag was lowered to the half-mast position, during the playing of the Last Post, it is smartly returned to the erect position during the playing of the Reveille.

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Wreath Laying

Wreaths may or may not be part of a commemorative service, though they are very common for ceremonies on November 11. During the wreath laying, appropriate music may be played, such as Abide with Me.

The wreath is usually carried by someone walking alongside the person who is to lay the wreath. The two approach, briefly pause, exchange the wreath, place it (often on a stand), step back, pause for a moment (military personnel salute), turn to the right and walk off. Protocol dictates the order in which the wreaths will be laid. According to the Royal Canadian Legion, depending on who is present, the order of precedence is as follows:

  • A representative of the Queen (Governor General, Lieutenant Governor)
  • A representative of the Government of Canada (highest ranking official present)
  • A representative of a provincial government
  • A representative of a municipal government
  • A Silver Cross Mother
  • A representative of the Canadian Forces
  • A representative of the Royal Canadian Legion
  • Representatives of other organizations and individuals

The order in which wreaths are laid may vary to suit the ceremony. However, it is imperative that a wreath representing Canada is laid before all others.

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Just like the music selection, pipers have different rates. Several factors may influence the fee:

  • Distance. Expect to pay an extra fee for pipers that have to travel longer distances to perform at your function.
  • Time. The amount of playing time is another factor. For example, when requesting a piper to play at the ceremony and reception, several hours of time may be needed to be set aside to perform at both.
  • Experience and Skill. Expect to pay higher fees for skilled pipers; while the fees are higher you should also receive a higher quality of performance, both musically and visually. Each piper also has his own history and has been learning for many years to be able to perfect their skills enough to play at your special function. Ask what their experience is and ask for references if you feel you need them.