I have known for years that I come from a long line of military heroes, both on my maternal and paternal sides of the family. Growing up I was extremely close to my maternal Grandmother (Anne) who had lost her father at the Battle Of The Somme in September, 1916. This loss had a life-long impact on her and she proudly kept a photo of her dad in her bedroom and the medal given to her mother by the Canadian Government on display in her living room.
I remember being told about her father and how he had died almost 1 year to the day that he arrived in France to fight for our freedom. When my Grandmother went to Europe the one and only time in her life in 1977, she was devastated that she did not have the chance to visit his grave or see the Vimy Ridge Memorial. I am not sure if she ever knew that his grave was unmarked and that he may forever rest under a headstone simply reading "A Solider Of The Great War". If she knew, she never mentioned it to me.
I had originally planned on returning to France in September of this year as a tribute to my Great Grandfather who, at the age of 26, left his pregnant wife and 2 small children at home in Toronto to go off and fight, never to return. I visited the World War I battlefields several years ago with my friends, and what we saw and learned has had a very deep impact on me since then.
Although the whole war was horrific, there was a slight sense of peace that I felt in seeing the exceptionally well kept graveyards dotted through the French countryside. I never saw a single caretaker in the many graveyards we visited, yet every grave was perfectly manicured. Seeing how well kept these graveyards were, and that so many brave men and women were together in a peaceful setting, gave me some sense that my Great Grandfather was not alone, not forgotten. He was where he belonged, beside his many brave comrades with whom he shared a common goal - freedom for his family, and his family to come.
This week I have been exploring some more of my family's military heroes and have begun to post their stories to this website. I have my work cut out for me, but a few hours of struggling to put their stories together is a small sacrifice when you think of what they sacrificed for us.