Remembrance Day has always been a day when I truly do honor the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for our freedom. Every year, I watch the ceremony in Ottawa and, every year, I am moved to tears watching the emotion on the faces of the people in the crowd.
My latest interview for the library project I am helping with was nothing short of eye-opening and made the emotions I feel on Remembrance Day seem insignificant. Charlie was born in 1925. After graduating high school, his career focus was on the Navy. It wasn’t until he talked with his teacher that he decided to become a soldier in the army. After going through basic training, being sent for further training in Nova Scotia and finally turning 19, Charlie found himself being sent to Europe in November of 1944.
Now, at the age of 92, he skillfully walked me through his journey from Canada to England and then to Italy. He joined the 48th Highlanders and they moved on to Pisa, where he remembered the leaning tower. From there they were transferred to Marseilles and then took a truck to Belgium. They crossed the Rhine into Germany into an area that had already been cleared and his troop eventually ended up in Apeldoorn, Holland.
By mid-morning on April 17th, 1945, the Highlanders had secured the north-western section, the Hastings were on the grounds of Het Loo Palace and the Royal Canadian Regiment was in the town square. The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade took over the south-western perimeter of the town before noon. Charlie was on the front lines when Holland was liberated.
It was remarkable watching him become so emotional when he told me how his unit was given the news on September 2nd, 1945 that the war was finally over. It was 72 years later and, if I could describe the look in his eye, he was right back on that street when he first heard the news, standing in his uniform pants and a t-shirt.
History really is about his story and so many other stories. And next year on Remembrance Day, I will remember Charlie and the countless others who sacrificed their freedom to defend others.