My father is a veteran, as were a number of others at Sunshine Valley. Each year, along with a contingent from the Sunshine Valley Volunteer Fire Department, we gather in Hope at the cenotaph, where often as not, our local resident manager, who was a soldier with the Canadian Airborne Regiment, served as parade Sergeant Major, guiding a bedraggled gang of veterans, community members and a sharp contingent of RCMP in bright red parade dress and stetsons, complete with calf length polished riding boots and spurs.
Five years after the Second World War, the Korean War erupted and my father, at eighteen, left to seek his adventure. Without telling his parents he enlisted, and, once on furlough prior to embarkation oversees, came home to Winnipeg in the middle of winter to say goodbye to his elderly parents. The image he recalls is of them waving to him from the platform as his train left the station. Theirs was a generation that had seen two world wars. My grandmother had had a friend who lost all four of her sons to the battles in Flanders.
To my own sons, participating in this time honoured ceremony is a reminder that mortal combat is more than a video game. After the ceremony we would gather in the Legion to mix with other veterans. One of these was a former spitfire pilot who saw D-Day, was shot down and captured - and escaped. He was 100 in the photo shown below.
My father’s unit, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) were led by officers and senior NCO’s who were distinguished veterans of World War Two themselves. My father often recalls a story of a thirty six hour assault on a hill where, after taking the top, Dad led a stretcher party back down to rear echelon in the dark, through enemy positions, navigating by the flash of artillery fire. When dawn broke, a jeep approached them with General Rockingham (Commander of Canadian Forces in Korea) and two senior officers. Rockingham kicked the officers out of the jeep and personally escorted my father and the wounded back to rear echelon. War has a way of levelling men of any rank.
The PPCLI 2nd Battalion were awarded the highest unit award for valour, the Presidential Citation, “…for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance in combat duties, against an armed enemy…” for defending Seoul from invasion at the Battle of Kapyong, where 600 defended against ten thousand. The odds where even worse than the British at the Battle of Agincourt. The Canadians are remembered for famously ordering artillery down on their own positions (known as “Danger Close”) as they were being overrun during the three day battle.
They were truly the “great” generation.