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Yesterday, June 6 2019, marked the 75th anniversary of D Day – a massive Allied invasion that started the Battle of Normandy and was the beginning of the end of World War II.  Canadians stormed the beach at Juno 14,000 strong.  Canadian forces saw 359 casualties and 715 injured.

Respect and Gratitude

My husband and I make it a priority to watch Remembrance Day and battle commemoration ceremonies on tv.  As a retired artillery reservist, it is important to him to pay his respects and show his gratitude to those who have fought before.  I have always been drawn to individuals’ experience of war – of leaving  home and family behind to fight for something you believe in. Some pretended to be older than they were to fight for that something.  The stories of the mud, the misery, the death and courage have always drawn me in.  Visiting the battlefields of France and Belgium is a bucket list trip for both of us.

I wasn’t going to write about the anniversary.  How could someone like me do justice to the importance of the day? Our family has been very fortunate.  Neither of my grandfathers fought in the World Wars, and my husband did not serve in Afghanistan.  What do I know about the experience of war?

Then I read an article late last night on the CBC website, and I am still thinking about it.

“My heart was telling me to go and walk in the water”

Mr. Jean Trempe’s quote won’t leave my mind.  Now ninety-four, he would have been 19 years old when he landed on the beach in 1944.  He fought as a gunner and artilleryman with the Régiment de Maisonneuve de Montréal.  Dipping his foot in the ocean, he was fully aware that his memories would return.

My nephew is nineteen.  He enjoys a good life – a loving family, a part time job and a university education.  He has not known the horrors of war except through his own interest in history.  I try to imagine he and his 16-year-old brother half a world away, with limited contact to home, fighting and killing.  His parents doing their best to carry on, unaware of his fate.  I am grateful that it is not our reality.

My heart breaks for the burden the world’s veterans – both Allied and German, past and present – have carried all these years.  I hope they know how much gratitude so many of us have for their sacrifices, their losses and their courage.  I hope that by listening to his heart 75 years later, Mr. Trempe finds some measure of peace.  Lest we forget.