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Robert Irving named honorary chair

Robert K. Irving has been named honorary chair of Lest We Forget – N’oublions jamais, a two-day event in support of the Canadian military, the RCMP and their families, to be held in Moncton this fall.

A fundraising dinner and a military exhibit will take place on Nov. 10 and 11, with a goal of recognizing and remembering the New Brunswickers who have served and sacrificed for our country – past, present and future, said Elisabeth Rybak, chair of event sponsor Atlantic Maple Leaf.

“The Irvings have been fantastic supporters of the military and military charities, they really have,” said Rybak. “And the Irving family, they have a leadership role here in New Brunswick and we are absolutely thrilled that he (Robert Irving) has stepped up to the plate for this event. Basically his leadership, it’s like a visible show of support for our cause. I think it’s a call to other businesses, other leaders in our community, to stand up with him and support Lest We Forget.”

“I think it’s important that we take time to recognize and pay our respects to the countless people who have stood and continue to stand in service of our country,” Irving, who is co-chief executive officer of J.D. Irving, Limited, said in an interview Thursday from Chicoutimi, Que. “We need to make sure we never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help give us the great country we have today. I think everybody understands the sacrifices that have been made and the lives that were lost. To be able to honour these people, give thanks and pay our respects to them, it’s tremendously important. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to raise funds to help people in need, whether it be the RCMP or the Armed Forces.”

Over 700 people are expected to gather for the black tie fundraising dinner at the Moncton Coliseum Agrena Complex on Nov. 10. Attendees will include veterans, military family members, RCMP officers, political and military leaders, business leaders as well as local artists and entertainers.

Funds raised at the event will go to the Military Families Fund, the Cadet Youth program, and programs that preserve the military heritage of our region.

Rybak said she has faith in the generosity of the community, as previous events held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s have raised almost $2 million to date, including $800,000 at the Newfoundland event alone.

But as Rybak explains, Lest We Forget is “more than just a gala tribute dinner.” The two-day event will also feature over 25,000 square feet of museum exhibits from New Brunswick’s nearly 170 years of military tradition. This will include a collection of restored military vehicles and present day military equipment. The exhibits will be open to the public on Nov. 11 at no charge

“This focus on remembrance is important, because time is passing and there are very, very few World War One vets left and very few World War Two vets left,” Rybak said. “And we have a responsibility to remember and recognize the contributions of people who have served.”

“I think it’s a great event and I’m very honoured to participate in this cause,” said Irving. “I feel very humbled to do so. It’s an opportunity to help create awareness of the individuals in our Armed Forces and the importance they play for our country both at home and in other parts of the world. It’s an opportunity to give thanks to them for all they do, as well as offer support to their families.

“It’s a great honour for me to participate in this event,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have this opportunity. I think it’s a great cause. It’s a chance to bring recognition to our Armed Forces, the RCMP and their families. These are people who sacrifice themselves for the good of our country. We can never underestimate the sacrifices that have been made by so many people to help give us the great country we live in.”

Atlantic Maple Leaf is a volunteer effort spearheaded by Rybak, inspired by her personal ties to the military.

“My son is in the military and he had a combat role in Afghanistan and I learned first hand some of the challenges our men and women in uniform were experiencing and I sort of got involved in asking around about military charities and what was out there to help support our injured and the families of the injured personnel, and I learned there wasn’t really any fundraising being done on the east coast of Canada, in Atlantic Canada,” she said, noting that spurred her into action about five years ago.

“The success of our events is really a testament to the unbelievable support that our citizens in Atlantic Canada have for our military members.”

The organizing committee includes David Hawkins as community ambassador; Ryan Jenner, vice president of business operations for the Moncton Wildcats as sponsorship chair and Honorary Colonel Rybak as dinner chair.

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