M y hero was born in 1923. As a young man, he was no stranger to war. World War I and the Halifax Explosion had already taken place when he, his twin brother, and mother moved to the small town of Kentville, Nova Scotia. Destiny, as well as his depth of character and personal fortitude, soon found him joining the Army Reserves in the Canadian Armed Forces.
D uring times of crisis, the Reserves are poised to serve their country in any way they are needed. When war was declared, in World War II, the government decided the Reserves would be used as a well-trained force to be sent overseas to fight on the frontlines.
I n the 1940's, the end of World War II seemed remote to all the recruits as they relentlessly trained, each day, for many days. From pre dawn to sunset the men endured back breaking training that left them exhausted and aching. All the men were tired and afraid but kept it to themselves and never complained. These young recruits enlisted to train and fight out of a sense of duty to protect the freedom of their families and their country. The Canadian Military has always been armed with volunteers. Consequentially there has never been a need to institute the draft during any of the wars.
A s with any military facility, the days end found the men sharing stories of the battles that were taking place overseas. It afforded a moment to reflect on and remember friends who had already gone over, some never to return.
O utside of the barracks, it was an unwritten "Rule of Honor" amongst the enlisted men, not to talk about the details surrounding anyone's death on the battlefield. That way the dead soldier's family members would be spared any unnecessary pain. Perhaps only in later years would a soldier share his painful memories but only with another soldier not with a civilian. This Code of Honor is still practiced today.
A fter completing Basic Training, this man, my hero, continued his grueling regimen, day after day, awaiting the call, ever prepared to fight for his country. None of the men knew when they would receive their orders to ship out overseas to the frontlines. Every day this man and his compatriots were haunted by new sad stories about their fellow brothers-in-arms who had been hurt or killed while fighting. My hero, said, "Any man who said he wasn't scared was lying." I believe him. Never the less, they never let the possibility that they could die while serving their country, stop them from doing their duty.
N ot knowing when he would be called upon, to go overseas, created great anxiety in my hero, as well as in all the others who waited. On any one given day the base would be bursting at the seams with thousands of young Canadian men. While the next day, the barracks would stand empty as each regiment would be sent overseas to fight. Even when rumors of the end of the war began to circulate through the base, thousands of men continued to come onto the base only to be sent away overseas.
F inally, my hero received his orders. His regiment was slated to go to the South Pacific. At this point, peace was declared, and World War II ended. Mt hero was spared his posting and possible death. You see, at the time, Canadians were experienced in "House Clearing" techniques and European Warfare, however, Southern Regional Warfare was new to us. I fear my hero and all the other Canadians in his regiment could have been lost.
A t the end of the war, thousands of troops survived to return to their families while many others did not. Canada lost many of her young sons, for the average age of our soldiers was only eighteen years old. Many soldiers returned home with horrible memories of war all of which they were bound to keep to themselves once back with their families in civilian life.
D ecades passed and one day this man, my hero, looked at me and said, "I wish I had been brave enough to join the Regular Force like you."
I looked at him and said, "How can you say that. I'm serving in the Armed Forces, now, during a time of peace. You served during a time of war, waiting, never knowing when or if you would be called to fight and perhaps die. You lost so many friends who were called and never came back. With everything you've been through, you're the one who is truly brave. You are my hero." Besides, if you had gone overseas, perhaps I would never have been born, Dad."
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