Sorrow and Gratitude

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The Happy Hibiscus this morning.

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, as I’m sure you are all aware. My Dad wasn’t part of the invasion, as he was with his tank regiment on the way from Italy through France, heading toward the liberation of Holland. Still, every year this day reminds me of him and of all he and his brother (as well as one of my Mum’s brothers, and others in the family) sacrificed for me and for this country.

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A Canadian veteran returns to Juno Beach, 70 years after D-Day.

This morning my Aunty and I watched the CBC special on D-Day, which was both inspiring and moving. When I was in Ottawa, the year after the Canadian War Museum opened, the lady I was staying with took me to see it. We were so lucky, as we only had a couple of hours and there was more to see than would fit. An older man heard us talking about how to find the exhibits that meant the most to me and offered his services as a guide. He’d been a docent for some years and was full of information. I got to see a real Sherman tank, just like the one my Dad drove. He was a Trooper (same rank as private in the army) in the Governor-General’s Horse Guards, or the Gee-Gees, as they are commonly known. I also saw a mannequin wearing the same uniform and carrying the rifle and equipment that Dad would have had. I stood in the middle of a landing craft that had been used at Juno Beach on D-Day; as I stepped in, a film began to show in front of me. It was hard to watch. It seemed that young men were rushing past me, with rifles and gear, jumping into the water and trying to make it to the beach. So many were shot down as I watched. This is the only known footage taken from inside one of the LSTs, we were told. I was only glad it was in black and white; the bloody water would have been even more horrific in colour.

Peter Mansbridge, CBC’s premier broadcaster and journalist, shared his experience flying in one of the last two flight-worthy Lancaster bombers; his father flew in one during the war and to honour his Dad (who died a few years ago), Peter took one of his Dad’s medals with him on the flight).

Over the last week, I’ve been listening to this song by Runrig: The Old Boys

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Tonight, the Happy Hibiscus is nearly finished with this bloom; to me, it’s a fitting reminder of all those beautiful young, brief lives (over 350 died on Juno Beach alone)

It makes me cry every time. So many young lives sacrificed; so many wounded; so little recognition once they arrived home again.

Dad turned 21 on the day he arrived back in Canada. This July 16th, it will be 70 years since that day. He had spent three years or more overseas, and now was finally legal to drink and vote. We forget that in those days, the ‘men’ we sent to fight were legally only ‘boys’. Like so many, he didn’t talk about his experiences, feeling, no doubt, that if you hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t understand.

I know that he was wounded by an accident; one of his regiment had been out on guard duty and returned to the tent where Dad was sitting at a table, reading. The soldier emptied his knee pockets of the grenades he’d been carrying. They weren’t supposed to carry them there, but many did anyway. As he pulled them out, the safety on one of the firing pins pulled out. Dad caught sight of it from the corner of his eye; he was sitting sideways to the tent entrance. A three-second delay, there wasn’t time for the young man to do anything; the grenade went off, killing him instantly. A piece of shrapnel passed through my Dad’s torso, missing all the vital organs. He had scars on both sides from then on, though.

The Chilliwack Progress had a mention of the wounding in its January 3, 1945 issue. If you scroll most of the way down the page, you will see it:

Under:

Yarrow News From The Chilliwack Progress For 1945
The Chilliwack Progress January 3, 1945

There are four photos of H.G. Sukkau’s plumbing and electrical store. Below that is the mention of John Letkemann. Some time later, the final ‘n’ of the surname was dropped by the family.

When the war in Europe ended, the soldiers were told they could only go home soon if they re-enlisted to be sent to the theatre in the East, to help in the fight against Japan. Dad and my Uncle both agreed, but they had no plan to follow through. After years of war, they were ready to forget about it and begin living a normal life. Luckily the war in Asia was over before it became an issue.

I didn’t post anything on Anzac Day, but I spent a lot of time thinking about those young men, too. This song, sung here by The Pogues, says it all: “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And when I think of the Second War, I also think of the First, one of the worst and most meaningless wars ever. This song, about that war and sung by the Corries, also makes me cry: The Green Fields of France. My brother in law who worked in radio and had his own show, played this every November 11th, but if you called any radio station and requested it, your request was refused.

I’d like to leave you on a happier note, so here is Day Three, in Aqua:

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Sorry I’m behind with comments again. I’ll catch up with you all soon.

Two last images from today’s ceremony:

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11 thoughts on “Sorrow and Gratitude

  1. So many Suffered and still do Linne. I too watched some of the service in France via BBC TV. We have so much to be grateful for. And this was a fitting tribute to all who served. Let their memories forever be within our hearts
    Love and Blessings Sue X

    • Thanks, Sue. I will never forget; I think we owe them that, at least. And to work for a better world, where such things will be only a distant memory. Love and Light to you, too. ~ Linne

    • Thanks, Stacy! It was a hard time for a boy (legally, anyway). I remember seeing Robin Williams in ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ and when the trucks of fresh-faced young boys were heading off to the front, laughing and joking, I just cried! I knew what they were going to, but they didn’t . . . and so many never came back, or came back wounded in body and spirit, only to be hated and neglected for the rest of their lives. Those guys make up a large part of the homeless population in the warmer areas like California. Sad, isn’t it? We ask so much of them, then refuse to acknowledge our debt and pay it.

      There is inspiration for me in how they met their duty and its challenges, though. Hugs, Stacy. ~ Linne

  2. I saw a news report on some of the Aussies who were going to attend the service and one of them broke down in tears as he was in the air-force and he said “We were up there just watching them get cut down. All of these brave young lads just being mowed down in front of us…” a very sobering moment and a timely reminder that war is NO answer and that the only people that profit from war are the war mongers and those who would manufacture the machinations of war…

    The Pogues pinched that song by the way 😉

    I read a book about the first World war and it almost broke my heart. It was probably the most disturbing book that I have ever read and much like watching “Dead man walking” the movie with Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon it left me feeling incredibly burdened inside for a couple of weeks. Such a waste of humanity but it has been going on since time immemorial. We just remember these wars because they are close and pertinent to “us” I am sure back in Attila the Huns reign, there were people who spent their days remembering as well…

    You really are showing off with that aqua blanket aren’t you! I have been raking acres of leaves for Glad next door…can’t be crocheting at the same time 😉

    • I saw several men in tears as they remembered and talked about what they and their friends went through that day (and through the war in general); One man was shot in the leg and was in an exposed area, lying on the beach; His buddy stopped (they weren’t supposed to, you know) and dragged him to a sheltered place. Then the buddy took a bullet in the head. I can only imagine what the rescued man lived with for the rest of his life. Grateful to be alive, but at what a cost . . . I have said for a long time that if war worked, we’d know it by now . . . time to give peace a chance, eh? That war is the only one I feel was at all justifiable, and even then I think that if people had been more aware and braver about standing up, maybe it could have been avoided.

      Yep, I know it wasn’t a Pogues song; I think the version my brother in law played was by the Irish Rovers, but I’m not sure. I’ll ask him next time I write.

      I read Pierre Berton’s huge book ‘Vimy’ and it was very hard to get through. Well written, but I can’t help identifying with those young men and their families. Some long time back, I also read ‘Andersonville’, about one of the most infamous prisoner of war camps during the Civil War in the States. Also a very hard read. But if we don’t look and remember, I think we make it so easy for the greedy to make it happen again. I think about the wee tribes that were wiped out by the Romans in their long march to ‘civilize’ Europe. I know some good came out of it all, but I can’t help wondering what good we missed and will now never know. Same on this continent; the Euros, thinking they were so superior, wiping out so many of the nations here. Makes me tired to think about, but I refuse to ignore it all, either. The genocide (or at least the attempt to turn the First Nations’ children into ersatz ‘white’ people) was still going on after I left school. The effects are still being felt and I know a couple of people here; one woman was in a residential school and the other’s Mum was in one. The stories are so hard to hear.

      On that brighter note, I love your raking stories! That’s a huge, HUGE lawn!! I’m surprised the oak leaves rot down for you; I’d always heard that they form mats and are impervious to rotting for years. So, good on you!! Hope you find more crocheting time soon . . .
      once Tassie ahs no wild leaves left! 🙂

      • Oak leaves rot down really well in a season. English plane leaves take forever but oak leaves are excellent and the leaves that we throw into our leaf bay at the bottom of the property are like soil by the next season. I have to jump Glad’s fence and rake up some more leaves (probably next weekend) as the huge oak tree bordering our two properties hasn’t finished losing it’s leaves yet and you wouldn’t know that I had raked the other day by looking at the area now. I will just throw all of those leaves into the leaf bay to rot down for leaf mould for next year. A wonderful perpetual cycle.
        I am with you on remembering. If you don’t remember, you forget and it is allowed to start all over again. We need that day (at least 1) of remembrance each year to remind us of the sacrifices that people have made in order to prevent the greedy and the rich from taking over our democratic way of life (but they do it via a monetary pathway anyway so it’s a small victory to say the least 😦 ).

      • Good to know about the oak leaves. We had lots in Victoria, BC; I haven’t seen any here; too cool for them, I think. I am so, so envious of your ‘exercise programme’ . . . After a day of helping with a move (see today’s post), my calves were stiff and a bit sore for most of yesterday. Still, I did much better than I expected and my back is still as strong as ever, so that’s something. If I helped with a move for an hour or so each day, I’d be doing quite well, I think. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what I’m going to be doing every other week for a bit. (see post; try not to stop breathing when you see the length 😉 )

        Yes, remembering is so important and I also think a mark of respect for those who gave so many years, their health and often their lives as well.

        I’m with you on the greedy; still, if we would all unite and vote with our money, they’d soon come to heel . . . I think most of us here do that already; now for the rest of the world to wake up . . .

  3. A lovely post Linne. Such a sad waste of lives, I can’t imagine having to send my son’s off to war or to have them never return. When I think of how we feel the stressors of our lives so acutely nowadays it shames me – that these men had to live through this and other wars and then carry on their lives with little help or acknowledgement of how this affected them for the rest of their lives. Lovely songs, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda always gets me. xx

    • You’re welcome! It’s hard to think about what they went through; most younger people have no idea, really. First the Dirty Thirties (my parents grew up on farms in Saskatchewan during the worst of the droughts and the Depression, although Dad’s family moved to the Fraser Valley in southern BC after a few years on the prairies). And that was barely over and then the War! I will never forget. And I remember when I was young, some of the hardships they went through, just trying to get a start for the family. And they never once complained or whined, either!

      I watched most of the coverage that day and was so moved, especially to see the few elders who are still living and were there to see Juno Beach once again. I can barely imagine. The emotion on their faces and in their voices . . .

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I look forward to reading your comments. ~ Linne

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