Late in the day on June 5, 1944, Canadian troops boarded ships along the southern coast of England. They set sail in the dark towards the coast of France.
The Allied invasion of Europe began on June 6, 1944 – a date thereafter known as D-Day. Canadian troops were tasked with securing their section of the coast dubbed ‘Juno Beach.’ In addition to these brave young men on those ships were Canadian aviators fighting to protect our country from above along with soldiers from every corner of our nation. Within a year, the war in Europe would be over.
In the centre of Memorial Peace Park, the cenotaph serves as a reminder of the cost of war to our community. In communities around B.C. and Canada, there are similar monuments with the names of young citizens who never returned home.
What is sometimes forgotten is the impact of the war on those who did make it home.
A number of years back, at the funeral for Rotarian Bill Harkness, his friends were reminded of this reality. Bill was a beloved community member. His volunteerism in establishing the Ridge Meadows Hospital was well known and he had marvellous stories of his years running a pharmacy here in Maple Ridge. He would always greet the young members of the club with a ‘hello young fella’ and sitting at his table was always a delight.
At his funeral, a man stood up and asked to speak. He told us about the heroism of Bill, who rescued his father from a burning tank, risking his own life in the process. The people at the service stood in stunned silence.
Bill had never spoken about his service in the Second World War.
Bill’s generation never spoke of their military service. My father never spoke of his experiences as a fighter pilot.
As I grew older, I learned from my friends that this was common. Men and women, who served as soldiers, sailors, pilots, medics and nurses, just tucked those memories away and got on with raising families and building their communities.
As we look back on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, we need to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who did not return home and celebrate those who were lucky enough to make it back from the war.
They are the quiet heroes who endured the unimaginable in defence of our nation.
On behalf of council and a grateful community, we celebrate those who have served and are currently serving in Canada’s armed forces.
Mike Morden, mayor