Remembrance Day play more than a moment of silence

Damon Fultz directs the annual G.W. Graham Secondary Remembrance Day production. This year focuses on the War in Afghanistan.

As part of the annual Remembrance Day production

As part of the annual Remembrance Day production

The Remembrance Day ceremony at G.W. Graham Secondary School stands apart from most. For the past 14 years, it has included a special theatre production to commemorate the historical day.

Each year, local veterans are given a premiere performance a week earlier at the Chilliwack Masonic Hall.

Emotions are raw, and tears flow with the applause.

This year was no different.

Theatre director and drama teacher Damon Fultz was motivated to bring meaning back to Remembrance Day after sitting through an “awful” ceremony in 2000, which consisted of a poorly memorized rendition of In Flanders Fields, followed by a 10-minute video.

Coming from a family of veterans, “I just felt that something more meaningful had to happen. So that’s when I started this amazing journey.”

Fultz’s Remembrance Day productions have a real impact, because they are real.

Every story, every painful memory, every graphic detail came from the lips of actual veterans, or family members on their behalf. Fultz listened to more than 40 individuals in legions, living rooms, or bars, wherever they were comfortable.

Some stories he heard were quintessentially Canadian. Like when troops stepped off the line in Afghanistan and walked into a Tim Hortons. Or the ball hockey game that continued all through the night.

But mostly, he heard stories that broke his heart.

A small cast of Grade 12 students bring those stories to the stage in Fultz’s Afghanistan War script this year. The multi-media production features live action and music that draws you into the intense emotion, in combination with authentic video footage and photography from the front lines that allows the audience to see the bigger picture.

Even Fultz still shudders at some of the footage. “I’m trying to get people to react emotionally,” he explained, “because then they can start thinking.”

damien commodoreActors Blake Pyne and Damien Commodore deliver powerful monologues. They talk about missing home. What it’s like to disarm an IED bomb. Where they hid from ‘Timmy Taliban’ gunfire. Having to ask yourself, “Am I a killer?”

They recall the sound of screams after a thundering explosion. And the smell of the blood on their uniform from a child they tried to save.

And they reveal what it’s like for those who made it home, only to lose everything. And for some, their lives.

For the veteran audience, the production is a way to thank them and their families for the scarifies they’ve made to ensure our freedom and safety.

For the high school audience, the production underlines the magnitude of those sacrifices.

In can be challenging to get through to young listeners who think of Remembrance Day as a mere holiday. Fultz hopes to at least open their eyes. Even if only a little bit.

Singer Olivia Eros made note of the wave of poppies or flags that appear on her social media newsfeed in early November, with captions that read, “Lest we forget.” But the cast agreed that the production is a way to help students understand what exactly it is that we’re supposed to be remembering.

It’s a day to honour all members of the Armed Forces who put their lives on the line, in the past and the present.

Over 100,000 Canadian soldiers died in the First and Second World Wars, and the war in Korea.

Another 158 soldiers were killed serving in the Afghan war.

And according to recent data, at least 54 Canadian soldiers and veterans have died by suicide since returning from war in Afghanistan.

After 15 years, the productions have taken a significant emotional and mental toll on Fultz.

“I remember all the veterans that I’ve talked with. Some of them are no longer with us,” Fultz said. But he hears their voices through the voices of his actors.

He’s faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to continue.

“Those darn veterans,” he sighed. After the highly emotional Masonic Hall production concluded, Fultz was greeted with an outpouring of emotion from veterans and family members, all expressing their gratitude, but gently urging him to continue.

Regardless of Fultz’s decision, his incredible Remembrance Day productions consistently warm every appreciative soul in the audience.

Veteran and president of the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society Jim Harris has been working with G.W. Graham on the Remembrance Projects for many years. As a man who fought bravely for our country, and overcame a great struggle with PTSD, the production brought up a lot of memories for Harris.

He gave a heartfelt thank you to Fultz and his students for keeping those important memories alive and at centre stage, year after year.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack General given award for surgical care and patient outcomes

First time three Fraser Health hospitals receive award from surgical quality improvement program

Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.
COLUMN: Bouncing back from a brain injury isn’t easy

‘We didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to return to work’

Google Maps screenshot taken at 6:07 a.m.
TRAFFIC: Westbound dump-truck crash on Highway 1

Crash occurred around 6:45 a.m., west of 232nd Street in Langley

The 11th annual Christmas Stocking Drive hosted by Royal LePage runs now until Dec. 11. (David Sucsy, Getty Images via Metro Creative Graphics)
Chilliwack Realtors asking people to help fill Christmas stockings for kids, seniors

Donations of cash, items needed for Christmas Stocking Drive hosted by Royal LePage

The BC Court of Appeal in Vancouver.
BC Court of Appeal hearing Barry Neufeld’s arguments why defamation suit should go ahead

BC Supreme Court tossed out lawsuit against Glen Hansman a year ago following anti-SLAPP legislation

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

File photo
Surrey RCMP investigating death threat against Surrey councillor

‘On Monday morning I received a threat on messenger that basically said to put a bullet in me,’ Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Most Read