Once a year we honor those who blazed this nations trail before us. Some had their lives cut short and the only reward is a name on the local cenotaph. We also pay tribute to those who served in war and in peacetime. Originally this was to commemorate the end of the first World War, the war to end all wars. We all know it was not. Our nations sons and daughters have fallen on foreign soil in many lands while defending our home and native land. We fought WWII from the beginning in both the European and Asian Theaters of war.
Our presence was felt in Korea the Balkans and in Africa and the Middle East.
There is one other honor bestowed on our country. The UN sent Canadians to many of the worst, godforsaken places on earth. Their mission to enforce the peace others agreed to.
I find it ironic, in WWI and WWII the Canadians were known as shock troops. For those much younger it is an honor that these men earned for bravery that not even Superman or any other hero could match. Shock troops, Canadians, if you wanted a trench line held, or a bridge defended who ya gonna call? The Canadians. Vimy Ridge, Ortona in Italy (known as little Stalingrad) There are dozens of other places I could mention.
Most Canadians even today do not know the Canadians were the only group to reach their objective on D Day. Our boys were twelve miles inland before anyone else.
My father fought in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and then into Germany itself. He often said Ortona was the worst, I leave that to the Veterans for their own opinion.
I would like to tell one short story about WWI. In Cape Breton, everyone in the older folk have a handle. Down East, born in Glace Bay I am a Caper and known as “Freddy”
The man I want to talk about was my fathers Uncle “Dan the Farmer MacDonald”
Dan the Farmer was stationed in the Caribbean for a while and later went to France. As life would have it he was at Vimy Ridge when the trouble started. He came home and said nothing about his experience. This is not the end of the story.
A few years ago my cousin Leo MacDonald came across an article that two medals once earned by Dan the Farmer MacDonald were sold in a Sotherby’s Auction in London. Our family knew nothing about them. The Auction House does not give the name of who bought anything. In this case they agreed to contact the purchaser and they could contact my cousin Leo.
As fate would have the purchaser called. As it happened a Canadian was at the auction and purchased the medals. The buyer? The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Canadians, nor his family knew that Dan the Farmer MacDonald from Cape Breton Nova Scotia earned not one but two medals for Bravery on the first day of battle at Vimy Ridge.
Ever since I found this out in 2017 I have wondered how many other untold stories there are out there. Stories known but not known filed away in books and bindings. I wonder if there are as many stories as there were hidden explosives just below the surface. Think of how much richer our understanding could be if we knew those stories.
On Remembrance Day when you have the privilege to stand in the cold at the cenotaph in your community think about all that you have and what they sacrificed for it.
November 11th – is not a holiday – it is a national day of remembrance and reflection.