Dad was imperfect – as every human being is. He had good looks, great charm, was athletic and industrious. He was a Harvard MBA and ran a very successful business. He had 6 great kids and provided for us all well. But he had his personal demons, too. Who knows how many of them came from those few years, when he was so young, in France and then Holland. How could he not have been scarred?
He landed at Juno Beach on DDay. He was the first Allied soldier in Caen. He was awarded the Military Cross for his work in laying and keeping open the signal lines under fire, and he went on to help liberate Holland. I am only able to tell this story because he was one of the lucky ones who was able to come home and build a family—of which I am one. But his demons led to a too-early death. He should have been a happier man.
Uncle Bob (Mum’s brother) didn’t bring demons home — because he never came home. The plane he was piloting went down in what was then called the Sea of Burma. The scars were left to be borne by his family and friends. Granddad (Mum’s dad) was a pilot in WWI – he flew with Billy Bishop against the famous Red Baron. He came home, but to my knowledge never spoke about those years. He died before I was old enough to ask him about his experiences, but I’m not sure he would have told me.
Uncle Don (another of Mum’s brothers) was a pilot with the naval air force. He was too young to go to war, but he made the navy his life’s career.
I am very proud of my family’s contributions. I am very proud of the fact that, when called upon to help internationally, Canada and Canadians have not only stepped up to the challenge, they have done so with passion and courage — above and beyond. But war damages everyone – those who make the ultimate sacrifice, those who come home, but scarred, physically and emotionally, and the families and friends of those either gone or who will never be the same.
Today we remember, and we say thank you. Let us honour these men and women by doing all we can to to promote peace – to prevent the carnage in the first place.