Honouring our soldiers; how one woman found a unique way to pay tribute

Krisi Marples/Courier “The least I could do this year is be willing to feel a tiny bit of discomfort to remember what they have done for me,” said St. Stephen’s own Bernadette Cunningham on why she and others decided to step into the murky, frigid waters of the St. Croix River on Remembrance Day to honour Canada’s soldiers. From left: Maria Plush, Greg Rickard, Lisa Cerminara, Jen Turnbull, Val Nolan, Bernadette Cunningham, and Tanya Templeton. Not pictured: Kim Reeder.

ST. STEPHEN – Bernadette Cunningham wanted to do something different on Remembrance Day. Fueled with new knowledge via documentaries on the state of veteran’s affairs in the country, the St. Stephen resident felt she wanted to do something unique to acknowledge the sacrifices soldiers have made for Canadians.

“I have images in my head of soldiers jumping out of planes off ships into water to head directly into gunfire,” said Cunningham. “They fought for my freedom. The least I could do this year is be willing to feel a tiny bit of discomfort to remember what they have done for me.”

The discomfort Cunningham chose to endure? Standing in the cold, unclean water of the St. Croix River.

After the Remembrance Day ceremony held at the cenotaph in St. Stephen, Cunningham went home and put out a call to friends via Facebook, to encourage others to join her; and the call yielded results.

At 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, seven locals walked into the St. Croix with Cunningham and stood in the frigid, murky water while Kim Reeder, also immersed, read the names of local men and women who had lost their lives in military service.

“I was asking myself ‘what am I personally willing to do’…what is my role?” said Cunningham.

The consensus amongst those in attendance echoed Cunningham; a desire to do something beyond attending a local service.

“I know walking into water does not compare to what has been done for me,” said Cunningham in a Facebook message to the wife of a serving member of the military. “I need to be willing to acknowledge sacrifices made for me in a way that challenges me and is not comfortable.”

“In the second, and probably First World War as well, thousands of men got foot rot from having wet feet and never being able to dry their boots and socks,” was the reply.

“I will never be able to grasp what has been done for me,” said Cunningham.

“This year more than ever I need to appreciate what has been done for and be willing to do hard things to.

“On November 11, I went into water I was aware was polluted knowing soldiers went into much worse.”