I didn’t use to think my family had that many veterans, though my brother was a kind of exception: an air force career, including service in Viet Nam. I only learned a few years ago that my dad wanted to join the Canadian air force at the beginning of World War II. They thought he was on the old side — in 1939, when Canada entered the war, he was 26 — so he rejoined his old outfit, the Mounties.
My mother was the real veteran — a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy.
In the past few years, stories of aging veterans of that war have emerged, and the circle has expanded: Uncle Freddie, in the merchant marine. His wife Kit, whom I never knew, in the Canadian army. Uncle Danny, who died just last month, a gunner on a Lancaster bomber. His wife Olive was a war bride; they met while she was in the Royal Air Force. My aunt Billie was too young to serve, but one of her first boyfriends landed with Canadian forces in Normandy in 1944 and died four months later in Holland.
In a town filled with names like MacDougall, Gillis, Macdonald, MacLellan, there were two Jewish families. They lost three sons in the war: Nathan and Sam Feinstein, and John Levine.
Jean-Baptiste Massieu said that gratitude is the heart’s memory. For many of these people, memory is the only way we can express gratitude.