W orld War II was underway and Canada was sending it's finest to the battlefronts. All across our great nation, young men were enlisting in the military. They wanted to do their part, representing our country in this great battle for freedom.
O ne would think that in this time of need, all volunteers who enlisted would be given the chance to serve for their country. But this was not the case. Only the fittest of the fit were accepted for active duty. Many eager, young men who had slight impediments were not accepted. William (Bill) Alexander Fowler, a small town Saskatchewan lad, was one of these disheartened youngsters.
L iving near Saskatoon, Bill enlisted at the Royal Canadian Air Force base located there. As part of the enlistment process, all were required to take mandatory medical tests. Unfortunately, the tests revealed that Bill had flat feet and was consequentially labeled "Medically Unfit". He felt thoroughly disappointed that the Canadian military turned him down but had to honor their findings.
B ill, along with several of his buddies in a similar predicament, still wanted to contribute. Being turned down for active duty, and full of determination to help out their fellow countrymen, they headed eastward to Fort William in Ontario. It was in Fort William that Bill got a job in a munitions plant. While not quite the same as active duty, it offered him some solace in that he was supporting Canada's war effort.
F eelings and emotions across the country continually rose and fell as news from overseas hit the airwaves. Pride and patriotism swelled in everyone's hearts upon hearing of victories by the Canadian servicemen. Tears and sorrow were prevalent upon hearing of school chums and relatives who lost their lives in the effort.
F inally in 1942, after a few years working in the munitions plant, the Army called Bill into service for his country. Bill was honored. At last he would be able to take a first hand role in representing his country in the Great War. He never did find out why he was called up after being rejected once already. Perhaps as the war raged on, the medical requirements for enlistees were lowered or perhaps it was his persistent inquiries at the enlistment office (one doesn't nag the sargeants).
F or Bill, it was off to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where he worked closely with the Artillery Guns. It was here, Bill sustained hearing damage that would remain with him for the rest of his life. Undaunted, Bill turned down a medical discharge at this point, and was transferred to the Little Mountain Camp in Vancouver, British Columbia where he served in the Quarter Master Stores.
W hile at the Little Mountain Camp, one of Bill's co-workers, Norman Powell, who lived in Vancouver, began to invite Bill to his home for some good home-cooked meals (not to say that the meals weren't good on the base, mind you). Bill found the home-cooked meals to be excellent, or so he said. Actually, it was Norman's sister Marian, who Bill was more interested in. The feeling was mutual and Bill began to eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis.
B ill and Marian fell in love and seized every opportunity to be together. Even with the atrocities happening overseas, love was in the air. That summer in 1943, Marian and several of her girl friends went on a one-week camping trip to Garibaldi Park. They all made arrangements for their beaus to meet them at the dock in Vancouver when they returned. However, when they returned, Bill was no where to be found. Marian was very disappointed and down heartened. When she reached home, her brother informed her that Bill had unexpectedly been transferred to the Army Camp at Vernon, British Columbia. That's army life, you go where your country needs you.
B ill really missed those home-cooked meals. So much so, that he made the trip back to Vancouver every weekend just for that reason! It was on one of those visits, the Labor Day weekend, that Bill Fowler asked Marian Powell to be his wife, and with Marian's assent, they became engaged. They were married on December 23, 1943. A popular day for the Powell family as it was also the wedding anniversary of Marian's parent's as well as that of her brother Norman and his wife Peggy.
S hortly thereafter, the Army transferred Bill back to Little Mountain Camp in Vancouver, where he served until his honorable discharge in the spring of 1946.
B ill's story is not unique. Many of his comrades in arms have similar stories to tell. In a few short years, a lifetime was lived. Lives were put on the line, were broken or lost while new lives began. Bill showed us that roadblocks can be overcome if you have the dedication and will power to achieve your goal while at the same time realizing that life goes on.
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