Meeting L Col John Burns, I did not feel that I had to stand up straight and salute, but I did enjoy getting to know some of the facets of his life – especially his connection to the annual Warriors’ Day Parade at the Canadian National Exhibition – taking place this year on Saturday, August 17, starting at 10:30 a.m.
At that event, his will be the voice announcing each of the participating groups – military, paramilitary, marching contingents and bands, veterans’ contingents, fire and first responders and military-themed living history/reenactor contingents from Canada, the US and other allied nations. More than 5,000 are expected to be marching in this, the 98th parade, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion and the 76th anniversary of the beginning of the Italian Campaign.
The parade started in 1921 with members of the World War I Canadian Corps marching to celebrate and commemorate victory and remember those lost and injured during the war. It has continued since then with rare exception: 1942-1946 during World War II and 2003, when a massive power failure in Southern Ontario closed the CNE for the weekend.
John’s own military life started when, as a late teenager, he turned from Boy Scouts to the military, joining the Governor General’s Horse Guards, Canada’s Senior Reserve Armoured Regiment. He rose to be their commanding officer.
At the same time as he was pursuing this military avocation, he was also pursuing communications, particularly in radio and marketing. One of his jobs was as the announcer for band concerts the City of Toronto held in High Park.
This led to his being asked to be the announcer for the Warriors’ Day Parade, and now to being the Immediate Past President of the Warriors’ Day Parade Council of the Canadian National Exhibition Association.
John Burns is a relative newcomer to Leaside, but he is not a newcomer to Toronto, where he was born and raised in the Harbord Collegiate neighbourhood. After living for 20 years in Richmond Hill, he and his wife, Rochelle, wanted to be closer to the activities they enjoy. They chose Leaside.
With John’s strong interest in military history, and Rochelle holding a PhD as a social historian, their collaboration on an evening at the Flato Markham Theatre to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017 was a natural. Rochelle provided a script, John recruited an orchestra to play music of the era, and, naturally, did the announcing. The event even included a trench dinner, served at long trestle tables.
Whether you yourself have the connections to be part of the parade, or simply want to honour those who have, check out this year’s Warriors’ Day Parade, and know that the announcer is a fellow Leasider.