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Local student's essay to hang at National War Museum

Antonia Tannert will attend Remembrance Day services in Ottawa in November.
Westside Academy student Antonia Tannert was awarded first prize for her essay, A Day for Reflection on the Past, Present and Future, in the Legion's Remembrance Day Literary and Poster Competition.

Eighty years after some 14,000 Canadian soldiers landed at the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, the spirit of their sacrifice is still fresh in the minds of some of Prince George's young citizens.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 recently recognized six zone winners and two provincial winners in the Remembrance Day Literary and Poster Competition.

Among those, the essay written by Grade 12 Westside Academy student Antonia Tannert was awarded first prize from thousands of submissions across Canada.

Her essay, A Day for Reflection on the Past, Present and Future, will now hang in the National War Museum in Ottawa for an entire year.

As well, Tannert has been invited on an all-expense paid trip to the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 11 where she will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph.

“When I found out I'd won I was shocked and thrilled,” says Tannert. “It's such an honour and I'm really excited about the trip. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone involved with the contest, hearing their stories and learning from their experiences. I'm just extremely grateful for the opportunity and thankful to everyone involved.

Tannert says she's been entering the contest for years and sees it as an opportunity to gain new skills and delve into historical research.

“I feel that recognizing and reflecting on the sacrifices of veterans is crucial for younger generations,” says Tannert. “I think that by understanding the challenges and sacrifices faced by those who served, and continue to serve, we can foster a sense of gratitude and appreciation, and also instill in us a sense of responsibility.

She took the top prize in 2021’s national Youth Remembrance contest for a poem called A Poppy Whispers.

Sandra Twizell, the chair of the Legion 43 Remembrance Day literary and poster contest, says she's thrilled that so many entrants from Prince George were recognized at the zone, provincial and national levels.

Twizell says Tannert's work had a visceral effect on many who have read it.

“I get choked up just thinking about it,” said Twizell. “She has such a maturity to her work and I'm absolutely thrilled that she's been recognized on a national level. It's amazing to think that this girl from Prince George will be in Ottawa laying a wreath on Remembrance Day.

Here is the winning essay:

A Day for Reflection on the Past, Present, and Future

When I was younger, I often wondered what the purpose of Remembrance Day was, and over the years, I’ve been offered various answers. It’s a day when we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by countless brave individuals who laid down their lives for the ideals of freedom, peace, and the betterment of our society. It’s also a day to express our gratitude for those who continue to make such sacrifices today. It is a day of remembrance, of recognizing and paying homage to the lives lost in the crucible of war. It’s a time when we listen to stories of courage, strength, and sacrifice.

But there’s also more to it than simple remembrance. It’s a call to collective introspection, urging all of us to look back at history with the intention of learning from it. There’s a hope that by understanding the tragic events of the past, we can avoid repeating them. I was told a fundamental part of Remembrance Day was to recognize the lessons of the past so that we could move forward into the future with hearts filled with love and empathy. However, history has not always been a linear path of progress. The Second World War followed the first Remembrance Day, becoming one of the deadliest conflicts in history. In recent years, the news has been dominated by headlines of conflicts in places like Ukraine, Gaza, and beyond. I find myself questioning how successful we are in learning from our mistakes and moving forward. I know that I am not an expert on these conflicts, and I don’t fully understand why everything is happening, but it feels like we are stuck in a cycle of violence. It feels as though strife, hatred, and violence persist in our world, and uncertainty looms over us. As we witness and observe the ongoing conflict and turmoil in the world, I often ask the question of what the way forward truly looks like, and what the future looks like. I’m not sure what the answer is, I don’t know if anyone does.

So maybe that's another point of Remembrance Day. It reminds us that the work of maintaining peace and preventing conflicts is an ongoing endeavor. It will require unwavering vigilance and commitment to resolving differences through dialogue, cooperation, and empathy. The enduring message of Remembrance Day remains: the human cost of war is simply too high, and the pursuit of peace is an ever-pressing imperative. We live in an uncertain world, and this day especially serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact of war, the sacrifices of those who came before us, and the responsibility we bear to work toward a more peaceful global community.

It is a day when we can remember the past, reflect on the present, and carry the torch of remembrance into the future. Though the path forward seems unclear, the values of strength, empathy, and love, which Remembrance Day represents, can continue to encourage reflection and thought and guide collective efforts toward a more peaceful and just world for everyone.