Yesterday I bought my poppy. Even though I have draw full of poppies I still purchase one every year. And there is even a little plastic do-hickey on the pin so perhaps this time I won't lose so many!
My 89 year old veteran Poppa Bear has already pulled his blazer from his closet and with a little help, he has managed to strategically place his tattered medals on his navy legion jacket.
Dad doesn't get out much these days. But he does love to partake in the moments that make him pause and reflect. He has been, once again, invited to attend the pre-Remembrance Day ceremony at the Wellington County Museum on November 5th, to read the names of the war dead from Drayton/Maryborough. Some might wonder why Dad has this privilege for he didn't even serve in the Canadian services, let alone live in this area during the war.
But he lives here, now. He was a 45 Commando in the British Royal Marines and served in many places including Malaya, Hong Kong, Japan. . . And he lives here now. I am here because a bullet never struck him dead. So he lives here now, with me; with us. And I am grateful and willing to help him anticipate the days of remembrance for him, for my mother who also served, for his mates and for so many others.
According to statistics released by the Veteran's Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 492 a day. This means there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II. [www.nationalww2museum.org; Nov 03/2015]
Dad is one of them.
War unites men and women who serve. Dad represents those who sacrificed life and limb so we could sit in our comfortable homes and partake in a land of plenty.
I am looking forward to helping my Dad traverse the cement pathway with his walker to the microphone. In his heart he will traverse it as a young, healthy marine 'just following orders.' He will salute. He will do his task.
I will proudly sit and listen as he reads the names of those, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, off the paper in his finest British accent and I will give thanks to God that, although some days it is hard work, it is not a patch on what my Dad and 15,999,999 other brave men and women had to do so I can enjoy the freedoms I celebrate in this fair country.
Thanks for being one of them, Dad!
Dear Lynne and Craig McFadden,
I am certain when I tapped you on the shoulder last Monday at the Palmerston Remembrance Day service, you thought me a bit of a crackpot. I mean how cheeky of me to ask you if you would mind using your umbrella to escort my 87 year old WWII Veteran Poppa Bear from the van to the cenotaph.
Actually there was someone else standing closer to my daughter's van with an umbrella but something prompted me to go over and speak to you instead.
You see, in my haste to get Dad from the school - where he shared stories and fielded questions from some very attentive students - to the cenotaph, I forgot to get my two umbrellas out of the car. We had hopped into Amanda's van to go to the cenotaph.
The pounding rain was persistent. Dad, doggedly determined to lay a wreath for his fallen comrades, would surely be soaked if you had not been there.
All I wanted you to do was to get Dad out of the car and then to perhaps allow him to stand with you under your ample umbrella. But as I looked into your eyes, I saw your heart. You didn't hesitate one iota.
"Here...take the umbrella," you insisted.
"But I can't take your only form of protection from the elements," I replied. You told me I could use it for Dad and you would see me at the end of the service and get it once everything was over. How thankful I was for your offer although my intention was certainly not to cause you to get wet.
I gratefully took your brolly and managed to get Dad out of the car and to the front of the crowd where he would seat himself carefully on the seat of his walker.
I turned and looked. There you stood - both you, Lynne and your brother, Craig, at the back of the gathering crowd. The rain poured down unmercifully as you put up your hood and both huddled under the doorway that afforded little except perhaps a slight wind block.
The service was very well attended given the inclement weather. Somehow the pounding rain and chilling wind coursing through our jackets added more meaning to the words of the pastor leading the service. He urged us to never forget the sacrifice and the dread of war. He didn't imply that war was anything to celebrate or glorify. Instead he gave us focus and caused listeners to wonder if they would have readily signed up for the call of duty as some of the young men in the day did.
I pondered what I imagined the conditions to be in the trenches, in the jungle and on the battlefields that my Dad and his comrades endured for the years he was in the Royal Marines. The rain and bone chilling temperatures suddenly didn't seem much to complain about.
I have rambled on. I dearly wanted to write this personal thank you to you, Lynne and Craig. Thank you for being a little bit of a hero last Monday and covering my Dad not only with your umbrella, but with your compassion and unconditional generosity to a very grateful veteran and his family. Be blessed and know your kindness will always and forever be appreciated.