Many of us baby boomers have asked our parents at one time or another, “What did you do in the war?” Be prepared, their reply may startle you.
The story of my dad and his two brothers began in the poor farming community of Camper, Manitoba.
When war declared in 1941, Dad was only 17. That’s when he and his older brother joined the army and they were soon travelling overseas to England, then France
I learned that Dad’s younger brother, who was only 15 but the tallest of the three, lied about his age and followed his older brothers to war a few months later. He wore coke-bottle glasses similar to John Lennon’s, and ironically became one of his regiment’s best sharp shooters, but was ambushed and killed within two weeks of landing in France.
His older brother’s job was to bring the dead back from the front lines. Not a pleasant job. The oldest never, ever spoke of the war. He ended up marrying a war bride and brought her back to Canada.
Dad, the middle son, was stationed with the heavy truck division. His job was to silently and skillfully drive the infantry within a mile of the front line in the middle of the night with no headlights on, then wait for the regiment to return in the early morning hours. He admits there were many times he prayed in the dark of night that the enemy didn’t find him or his camouflaged truck.
My dad stayed the entire duration of the war and came back to Winnipeg in 1945 with several medals that included honour and bravery in the line of duty.
I ask dad if I can come over and take a picture of him wearing his medals. He graciously declines and says that was a long time ago.
“When I was in the war I never thought I’d live to be 25,” he tells me, “and I’m thankful that I never had to shoot anyone.”
Today, he is in his nineties and still going strong with a good attitude and a zest for life.
Out of respect for dad’s wishes, the picture shown is not of a soldier in uniform wearing his medals, but of a young man with arms crossed standing beside his farm truck a week prior to departure in 1941. His older brother is standing in the background.
The youngest is taking the picture.
I can’t help but think of how fate can sometimes be so cruel. Perhaps, it’s why the image of the youngest is not in the photograph.
Lest we forget.
Originally published Nov. 11, 2014