[This is an article I wrote for a small newsletter in 1995 ... it's a departure from what I normally post, but I hope you'll take a minute to read it, and pass it on. It's why, for me, Remembrance Day is the most important day of the year]
Winter, 1945. She had walked 10km gleaning the land for any food. What little she found she tucked into the pockets sewn on her slip, hidden under her skirt. It was the coldest winter on record in the Netherlands since the Second World War had begun; there was no food and no heat. When she reached Den Haag city limits, the occupiers searched her and confiscated the food. She’d go home with no food for her family after three days out….. She was only 11 years old.
Winter, 1945. He watched as the occupiers beat his father in the street. Helping his father during the beating, or after, would mean certain death for both of them. He kept watching for hours until his father could get up by himself and come into the house. There was no food or heat. Another cold winter….. He was 13 years old.
May 8, 1995. The largest parade ever held in Apeldoorn, Holland. She traveled from Canada to stand along the parade route; one of over 500,000 people lining the route. Many of whom had flown back to Holland from all corners of the world to shake the hands of the Canadian soldiers who had liberated their country 50 years ago. Over 12,000 Canadian War Veterans came back to Holland for the V-E Day celebrations, many back for the first time since WWII.
The cold would not go away. There were no more floorboards to pull up, cut, and put into the stoves for heat. Food was harder to find since the Dutch railway workers refused to work, leaving the occupiers without means to get their food shipped in. Any food found was confiscated by the occupiers.
May 7, 1995 – Lynden, Washington. Holland Days were underway. He came with his daughter for the annual parade. This year the parade would be in honour of V-E Day. Canadian War Veterans marched proudly; the people of Lynden walked up and down the parade route handing out Canadian, US, and Dutch flags. Taps was played and a moment of silence was observed. World War II vintage planes flew within a few feet of the rooftops, paratrooper’s jumped from the planes at each end of the parade route. He said he felt like he was 13 years old again; this was exactly how he remembered it, the day his town was liberated; the paratroopers dropping from the planes with boxes of food.
May 8, 1945. The liberators arrived. The Dutch who were not too weak and sick with starvation ran into the streets to greet the Canadian soldiers. The soldiers were shocked, many of the Dutch resembled skeletons. The Canadian soldiers gave all their food away to the Dutch people; the Dutch eagerly accepted. The Canadians stayed and helped the Dutch try to put their lives together again.
For me, Remembrance Day is the day I can express my gratitude to all the Canadian Veterans who liberated the Netherlands.
You see, the people mentioned in this article are my parents, and truly without the sacrifice and dedication of the Canadian Veterans, my parents would not have lived through another winter. I owe not only my parents’ lives, but mine as well, to all that served in the war; and to those who liberated the town I where was born.
My Mom and Dad in Holland on October 17, 1954
My sister and I with Mom and Dad on our last Sunday in Holland. We were off to embark on a great adventure in a far-away land called Canada
Mom and Dad visiting me in Victoria, B.C. in the summer of 2010
Of the 1,086,475 Canadian who served in the Second World War, 41,097 did not come home. 60,661 of the 628,462 who served in World War I did not return. Remembrance Day is a day that we honour those who died fighting for peace and freedom, and give our respects for those who did not return. It also serves to remind us that we are grateful to live in such a rich and beautiful country; that we should use our lives to help mankind, promote peace, and understrand and respect the dignity of man everywhere.
Please wear a poppy on Remembrance Day; show your support not only for those who served in the past, but also those who are serving now to build us peace for the future. On November 11th, be thankful, think of peace, and participate by wearing a poppy.