That's Life - November 8, 2017

Remembrance Day is upon us once again. Many of us will attend services. Some will pause in silence in their homes. Others will scratch their heads and roll their eyes at the thought of paying any form of respect to those who have served our great nation.

I had cause to flip back to my 2013 That’s Life Remembrance Day column and I felt that I would like to share it with you again. It brings back a lot of memories for me and stirs up a lot of emotions. We all have our own stories. This one is very special to me. (Reprinted from Nov. 6, 2013).

When my father celebrated his 20th birthday, he was just another young man growing up in Drumheller, Alberta. One year later he celebrated his 21st birthday on the back of a tank with a metal detector, sweeping for landmines. He was thousands of miles away from home. He wouldn’t see his family for more than six years.

My father was one of the lucky ones. He came home from World War II in one piece. He had gone through more in six years than most of us will experience in a lifetime.

I have always been interested in our military and I deeply respect those who have served and continue to serve this great nation. Our freedom is due to their sacrifices.

It boggles the mind to think that Canada’s entire population, in 1939, was about 11 million people. That includes every man, woman and child.

About 1.1 million Canadians, between the ages of 18-45 years, served in World War II. 370,000 of those served in the European theatre. The records show that 45,000 Canadians were killed and over 58,000 were wounded. Some would live out their lives in Military hospitals. On the lighter side, 32,000 service men and women were married overseas. My dad was one of those.

I focus on World War II because of my father’s experiences and the stories he shared with me. My mother was not the girl down the street or a high school sweetheart, she would become a British warbride. Mom was a telephone exchange operator in the city of Brighton on the south coast of Great Britain. Mom and Dad met long after war was declared. After all, mom was only 14 years old when dad joined the army. She used to tell people she was a “call girl” and a “child bride”.

The story has it that when mother was 18 she was seeing a young American soldier. He made the mistake of asking my dad to keep a watchful eye on her while he went back into action. Dad, obliged him and the rest is history. Like dad said to me, “Well, kid, nothing’s fair in love and war.” They were married, in Brighton, in 1945.

Each year, in preparation and commemoration of Remembrance Day, I research the Archives of The Capital for stories we have done over the years. I never fail to come across dad’s old pictures of his crew and I’m still discovering photos that I had never seen before in the family collection.

A short while ago, I was searching for a particular photo of my grandparent’s wedding. It must have been kept in my mother’s private collection because my sister’s and I have never seen it before. I just found it one day by chance as I did one of my three hour walks down memory lane. You see, my parents have both passed on and I am the keeper of the family photos.

As I continued to flip picture after picture, I came upon an envelope. Tucked away inside was my dad’s Canadian Fifth Armoured Division shoulder patches, his Corporal stripes and beret insignia.

I keep my favourite picture of dad in my office. He was in his early 20’s, standing, in uniform, on a narrow street or alley in Italy. Sure enough, there were the stripes, the patches and I can just make out that beret insignia behind all that wavy black hair. Those keepsakes had been safely tucked away in my mother’s chest of drawers for 66 years and sat in my home for two years before I discovered them.

This year, as the Mayor of Three Hills, I will proudly place a wreath on behalf of our community. But this year I will wear the uniform of the Royal Canadian Legion, as an Associate Member.

As our War Veterans become fewer, the sons and daughters have stepped forward to ensure that their valiant efforts will never be forgotten.

They shall grow not old,

As we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them,

Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning

We will remember them.

That’s Life.