Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard, C.D.
I was privileged to attend the Grand Bend Legion’s Remembrance Day dinner on Saturday November 7.
My first order of business was to purchase a nice cold beer at the bar. Next was to find where Rita was sitting. My sister-in-law Joan, who volunteers at all of the occasions, directed me to the table, which was right in front of the head table. I’m usually the type who goes to church and sits at the back, so I felt hemmed in sitting in the front: too far from the bar. I felt embarrassed getting up and walking down the middle aisle for refreshments and back up to my seat with all the people eyeing me, so I didn’t. One beer to last me all through the evening? I don’t think so.
Anyway, after the guest pastor said grace, we made our way to the food tables. Legion members and guests are always so friendly and laid back at these functions. Even though everyone is hungry, no one pushes or complains if things don’t go as smoothly as they would like. Once the super volunteer ladies had everything in place, the lines began to move. Plates were filled – some with lots of food and others with less, depending on the individual. I just said, “Keep it coming,” because I didn’t have to cook it. The beef was cooked like no restaurant can do it. These ladies – God bless them – know how to put on a meal that has no equal.
After we were filled with food we were treated with the guest speakers thanking the veterans and those who never made it back to Canada. One speaker made reference to a Canadian who had travelled to France and at immigration he was asked for his passport. Fumbling for it in his pocket, the French officer said, “Don’t you Canadians know that you have to have your passports ready when you come to France?” The Canadian replied, “The last time I was in France was at Dieppe in 1944 and none of you Frenchmen stayed around to check my passport.”
The guest of honour was a young RCR corporal who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. This soldier did himself proud in his presentation. He shows us slides depicting the environment in which he served: pretty desolate. The conditions reminded me of my tour in the Gaza Strip in 1957. He spoke of the living conditions his unit was forced to put up with. The temperature change between day and night can be very disturbing. The ground does not absorb the heat like it does in Canada and therefore, it can drop from 50 C at noon to 15 C at 4 a.m..
He stressed that he and his comrades try very hard to represent Canada well to the locals, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. They do think that they are making a difference.
Every year the Legion is making improvements to educate Canadians of the importance of remembering those who have and still do give their lives for all of us. I witnessed this in the number of school children attending the cenotaph ceremony on Wednesday.
I have one request: one of my uncles was torpedoed twice in the North Atlantic while working as a boiler man in a convoy heading for England. He was a civilian, but was never recognized by the government. We need to consider changing the rules for how civilians serving in the theatre of war are recognized for their contributions.