The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, marked the end of what is known as, “the war to end all wars” or “the Great War.” Remembrance Day 2018 is a milestone in Canadian Military history; a century since the end of World War I. Canada’s contribution was measured in numbers that are barely comprehensible with 61,000 Canadians losing their lives and another 172,000 wounded, making it the costliest wars in Canadian history.
Many returned from their experiences in the Great War, not only suffering physical wounds, but rather from what was called “shell shock” or as we know it today “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome” (PTSD). Their sacrifices, in some cases, were not physically apparent but none the less they were every bit as life- altering.
Canada’s last World War I veteran, John Babcock, passed away on February 18, 2010 at the age of 109. John was the last survivor of the almost 650,000 enlisted personnel who served during the war. He was a mere 15 years old when he joined the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Sydenham, near his home in Kingston, Ontario. A short time later, he arrived in England and was then transferred to reserve battalions and ended up with the Boys Battalion, which was known as the “Young Soldiers Battalion” in 1917, moving on to the front lines shortly after his 18th birthday.
The story of John Babcock and the loss of our last connection to an important part of our history, reminded me of the loss of another great Canadian. In early September, Hanna, Alberta and Canada lost a precious piece of our history, World War II veteran, Mr. Charlie Fielding at the age of 99 years. Charlie served with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the Governor General’s Foot Guards in Europe during the World War II.
Charlie’s legacy is well known in Hanna and the surrounding area, in large part to the time he spent visiting schools and sharing his experiences with the children. By sharing connections men like John and Charlie made in their lives after serving were a gift to those who were fortunate enough to be in their audience.
The sacrifices today’s men and women make in our Armed Forces are as important now as they were during World Wars I and II. November 11th is a day of reflection and a time to put into perspective how significant the sacrifice of those who served to protect our freedom.
The loss of brave soldiers like John Babcock and Charlie Fielding as time passes cannot diminish the significance of the sacrifices that have ultimately shaped our daily lives.
There’s an old saying, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” they may indeed faded away, but their sacrifices will never fade.
Lest we forget.