Faithfully yours - Living witness, lofty wish


By Neil Strohschein

Neepawa Banner & Press

September 8, 2018 was a day that I will never forget.

I was invited by members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 (Neepawa) to take part in the ceremony commemorating the restoration of a WW1 cannon and its placement in a newly created memorial park. I was filling in for the Neepawa Branch Chaplain, who was away at the time.

For those who don’t know, this cannon has been part of our community for almost 100 years. It fired its first shot shortly after WW1 began. It fired its last shot on Sept. 2, 1918 when it was captured by Allied forces fighting in France. It came to Neepawa in 1920. Its first home was on the grounds of the Beautiful Plains County Court House. It was later moved to the grassy knoll on the north west side of the Neepawa Legion Hall.

But like anything that sits outside exposed to the elements for that long, the cannon’s condition was getting worse by the year. So members of Branch 23 raised funds to cover the cost of restoring and relocating the cannon. It now is the center piece of a Memorial Park located just outside the main entrance to the Hall and Club Room.

My job on September 8 was to offer two short prayers—an opening prayer and a closing dedicatory prayer after all the speeches were over and a memorial plaque had been unveiled. Now—put yourself in my shoes—how and to what do you dedicate something that was designed, built and used to destroy the lives and property of so many people?

My task was made considerably easier when I recalled that, for the past 100 years, this cannon has filled two roles in our community. First, it is a living witness to the courage and heroism of Canadians who fought in WW1. Our victories, especially in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, were key components in the Allied advance that ultimately ended the war.

When the Neepawa Legion decided to restore the cannon, they chose as their motto for the project: “We will restore. We will remember.” My hope and prayer is that 100 years from now, the cannon will be where it is now so that its witness to Canada’s contribution to the Great War will still be heard, understood and appreciated.

Second, this cannon represents the lofty wishes of the people of Neepawa and of the towns, villages and rural districts of south west Manitoba. We, along with the rest of this world’s population, hope and pray for the day when all weapons of war will be as the one we rededicated on Sept. 8 is now—silent—once and for all—so that we can live in a world where peace-loving people are at peace and live in peace with each other.

But achieving this goal will not be easy. It will require all of us to deal with what St. James called the “cravings that are at war within us;” the lust for position, possessions and power that keeps us from treating others with dignity and respect.

Every time I see the Neepawa cannon, I am reminded of what can happen when those cravings get out of hand. And I pray that all people everywhere will come before God in faith, renounce these cravings and choose, by God’s grace and with his help, to love, accept and forgive others as God has loved, accepted and forgiven us.

That is the only way to ensure that a lasting peace can come to our world.