Lest We Forget

Today we remember.
We remember those who left and never came back.
We remember those who came back and were never the same.
We remember those who were too young, but went anyway.
We remember those who stayed home and prayed, sent letters and care packages and waited anxiously for loved ones to return.
We remember those they liberated.
We remember the sacrifice and the freedoms they fought for.
We remember the stories they shared – pieces of memory of love and loss, of friendship and hate, of a time that can’t be erased.
Today we remember.
Lest We Forget.

My great-grandfather, Alvin Weidenhamer, was a signalman in the Canadian artillery during the First World War – a part of the Canadian Expedition Force.  According to his attestation paper he signed up at the young age of 22 years, 9 months, and on December 16th, 1915  – 9 days before Christmas.  His occupation listed was Farmer, he was not married at the time and he embarked on a journey that would take him overseas into the heart of the fighting of The Great War.
I knew growing up that he had been a soldier in the war but I honestly didn’t even know his story till a few years ago when my kids started asking questions about our family history and any information we had to share at school for Remembrance Day.
I found out that Grandpa had received a medal for “Bravery in the Field”. And his story is as follows (thanks to my Mom’s cousin Murray for passing this on to me) –

The army was in retreat – the weather was wet and rainy. The engineers had fashioned some sort of road over the soggy terrain using large wooden pallets.  Everyone was having a hard time staying on this wooden road. It was muddy, slippery and unstable.  Many men were falling off were at risk of drowning, and there were some who were jumping off the road and into the mud to help save those in trouble. As chance would have it, Grandpa managed to jump in and haul a British officer to safety – and that’s how he got his medal.  He wasn’t terribly proud of that medal; he felt that everyone there should have received one who was there helping.

But I think that just goes to show the character of this man. He didn’t feel that what he did was out of the ordinary, or extraordinary.  He was only doing what any other caring human being would have done – helped those who needed help.

Another story that he shared with Murray, and from what I understand he didn’t talk about his time during the war very often, was one where he was caught , in crossfire on one occasion. The army had retreated and he was left in no-man’s land.  As a signalman he was close to the frontline troops, and close to enemy lines,  his job to observe where the shells were landing on the enemy territory and signal back to the gunners so they could adjust their aim.
So there he was, left in no-man’s land, caught between the two forces.  He had to lie in a foxhole for three days while the battle continued and the artillery shells flew back and forth overhead.  The foxhole he took refuge in was also occupied by three German soldiers- all dead.  Three days and three nights. Alone. I can imagine it felt more like an eternity.  By the time Grandpa could leave that place, he felt he knew those dead German soldiers. They were young men, just like him.  They had parents, just like him. They had brothers and sisters, just like him.  And they had friends for whom they were willing to give their own lives for, just like him.

I can’t imagine what it was like. But we can honour their sacrifice and remember what they gave and keep sharing their stories so we never have to repeat and go through what they had to go through. 100 years later, and their stories are still remembered.  Lest We Forget.
#CanadaRemembers #LestWeForget #WeWillRememberThem #RemembranceDay #100years

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