Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Hockey Blogger Remembers

Johnny Bower reads “In Flanders Fields” during the Remembrance Day ceremony before the Leaf-Wild game, Nov 10, 2009.

November 11th is always an important day for me and my family.

No matter where I am, be it at work or on the road, I always stop to remember on the 11th minute of the 11th day of the 11th month.

I always have a great recollection of my high school Remembrance Day ceremony. Instead of an assembly, one of our english teachers read an emotionally charged story from the Second World War over the PA System and then read In Flanders Fields, followed by the last post.

Both my parents, and their families, experienced the Second World War from both sides of the English Channel and at sea.

While my grandfather, on my mother’s side, was serving with the Royal Marines, my grandmother had two children to take care of in Southampton during the Battle of Britain.

Scrambling to air raid shelters, or hiding under the basement stairs when they couldn’t, became common practice. With the supply lines from North America under constant threat from U-boats, food was rationed and sometimes scarce.

My father grew up in the Hague, Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. As a boy of four when it began to almost ten years old when it was over, my dad still has vivid memories of what he saw. The Hague was near one of the V-1 “Buzz-bomb” launch sites. Locals could tell just from the sound if the primitive rockets launched successfully or did not and could likely crash into a nearby home.

My father’s home was ultimately destroyed in an allied bombing run to take out the Luftwaffe and the V1s. We call it collateral damage in today’s era. Then it was par for the course.

As for that group of individuals who claim the Holocaust never happened, well my dad could tell a story or two of what he saw in the streets of the besieged city.

Once the Allies had the Nazis on the run, as the war ended, the Dutch were left to starve after a brutal winter and with little fuel by the occupiers.

Despite hostilities nearly over, The Canadian Army was left to liberate western Holland, which includes Rotterdam, Amsterdam and the Hague.

The Canadians were welcomed enthusiastically and the joyous "Canadian summer" that ensued forged deep and long-lasting bonds of friendship between the Dutch and Canadian peoples, and still does to this very day.

We should always remember the brave men and women who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice – Vimy, Dieppe, Ortona, Juno, Korea, Afghanistan - so that we can enjoy the freedoms and lives we have today.

It is also important to acknowledge, and thank, those who still serve in our Armed Forces today…But is one day enough?

An old high school friend had a good answer to that today on Facebook.

“I would like everybody to consider during their "moment of silence" today that the veterans and their families gave, in some cases, the ultimate sacrifice and it's only remembered one day of the year.  If you feel any gratitude or respect today, try to do the same this time next week, Christmas Eve, Valentine's Day,...”

It’s not that hard to do, if you think about it.

Lest We Forget.

Remebrance Day in the hockey world:

The Society for International Hockey Research offers a list of more than 2600 hockey players who are known to have had military service.

Johnny Bower, who turned 85 on the weekend, talks about reading “In Flanders Fields”, during Tuesdays ceremony at the ACC and Remembrance Day, on the Fan 590

Greatest Hockey Legends has a great piece  from last year on War and Hockey History

An article from on the Kraut Line’s memorable sendoff to military service.

Habs Eyes on the Prize looks at a wartime Habs myth

1 comment:

From the Point said...

Nice job. One day is not enough, i often think of those serving every time I stand for the anthem at a game. It reminds me how lucky I am.