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Veterans Honored at Ambassadors for Peace Awards Banquet in Toronto

Toronto, Canada – An overflow crowd of about 270 people filled the Ojibway Hall in Huron Park Recreation Centre on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2023, for UPF-Ontario’s annual Ambassadors for Peace Awards banquet. Fittingly, this year’s theme was “Honoring Veterans for Peace,” and over 50 veterans were in attendance. They each received a beautiful medal and certificate of appreciation from the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

This year’s banquet was different from previous years in that UPF volunteers did everything: preparing the food, tables and decorations, as well as the sound and projection systems.

Proceedings started with a bagpiper welcoming in the dignitaries and veterans. As a bugler stood on stage, the Land Acknowledgment was read by Margaret Froh, President of the Métis Nation of Ontario. This was followed by 8th grader Mee Young Gabriel leading the National Anthem, and a Peace Ceremony with leaders of local religious and ethnic groups.

Dr. Moonshik Kim, chairman of UPF-Canada, warmly welcomed all. He testified to the deep sense of gratitude felt by UPF founders, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, to the veterans of the Korean War for saving their lives. He explained their sponsorship of the Little Angels’ tour in 2010, the 60th anniversary of the war, to the 16 nations that answered the United Nations’ call by sending soldiers or medical support to Korea. Later a video was shown of their stop in Ottawa and the moving scenes in the Veterans Hospital as the Little Angels sang and embraced the veterans living there.

The Remembrance Ceremony was a moving moment, featuring the Last Post, Silence, Reveille, Lament, and the Act of Remembrance read by Romeo Daley, a Korean War veteran. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Senator Yeonah Martin sent congratulatory remarks by video. Remarks were given in person, and with real passion, by local MPP Sheref Sabawy, and by DeWitt Lee and Khalilah Megan Campbell, founders of Black Veterans’ Day of Ontario, who together read a moving proclamation from Mayor Patrick Brown of Brampton.

In the spirit of remembrance, Rebecca Cálix-Portelance, a young aspiring opera singer, read the poem “In Flanders Field,” written by Canadian surgeon, John McCrae, followed by a haunting rendition of “Danny Boy.” She prepared the way for Dr. Franco Famularo’s excellent keynote address introducing UPF’s key principles. His speech ended with spontaneous applause as he showed a photo of his uncle, a World War II veteran, who after two years in a German concentration camp walked home to southern Italy. He celebrated his 100th birthday on November 9 with Dr. Famularo and his daughter in Calabria, Italy.

At that point two veterans of World War II – Jack Finan, nearly 104, the last living Lancaster bomber pilot, and Ronald Zabrok, 99, also a Korean War veteran – received their medals and certificates to a standing ovation. Following a prayer by Rev. R. Thillairajan, dinner was served.

Rebecca Cálix-Portelance returned with another beautiful song before the awarding of two Ambassador for Peace Service Awards: the first to retired Lt. Cdr. Melvin Patrick Cornect, a 35-year Navy veteran who is active in naval veterans activities; the second to HooJung Jones Kennedy who, with her husband retired Major Donald William Kennedy, founded The Korean War Veterans Advocates of Canada. HooJung has been a tireless advocate for Korean War veterans and has placed five monuments throughout Canada to preserve the memory of Canada’s contribution.

Finally, bagpiper Mike Cuffe, president of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association 447 Wing, returned to play “Amazing Grace.” Twelve new Ambassadors for Peace were then appointed. After a passionate rendering of “Where Peace Begins” by two very talented young Filipino singers, the evening culminated in the awarding of the medals and certificates of appreciation to the assembled veterans, in an atmosphere of joy, with many photos.

By David Stewart, UPF-Canada November 11, 2023


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