On a grey November afternoon, just days before the world marks the solemn memory of countless noble sacrifices in war offered in the name of freedom, Jack Potter sits upon a sofa at his home in The Village of Riverside Glen. Upon his lap is a box filled with old photos and newspaper clippings; as he sifts through them he glances upon the young faces of seaman he traversed the Atlantic Ocean with during his time in the Second World War.
Upon the wall Jack points to another black and white photo where five young men in uniform smile brightly for the camera. Jack and four of his brothers stare out from the past in a humble reminder of how much one family was willing to give as the ideologies clashed in horrific battles throughout the world.
Jack explains that even before war broke out in Europe in 1939, he envisioned himself in the Navy. There was a sense of excitement in the prospect, he says, and the legacy of family history spurred him on. He mentions an uncle who fought and died in the decisive battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, and that sacrifice surely factored into Jack’s heart and mind as a young man.
This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the guns fell silent to end The Great War – ‘The War to End all Wars,’ as some called it then.
A generation after the armistice, however, Jack, his brothers and countless others would step forward in terrible conflict. Modern war, unlike any fought since the history of humankind, would in many ways define the 20th Century, and in its ugly shadow the best and worst of humanity would surface.
Jack grew through it.
“I don’t say it was patriotic feelings,” Jack says, considering what prompted the decision to volunteer, both in his mind and in his brothers’. “We just felt we should be there.”
Imagine a mother at home caring for younger children, while five sons marched, sailed and flew into such treacherous unknowns; imagine her relief when all five returned to her.
Jack was 19 when he joined, a veteran at 23.
“I grew up in the navy,” he says, and he did so with other young men who came from all backgrounds and all walks of life. They grew together, bonded ever tighter by the hardships, challenges and victories they shared. “We relied on one another,” he says, simply.
To this day Jack says that even though war, at it’s core, is ghastly, his time in it remains some of the best times of his life, because “it changed me.” He grew through shared sacrifice to see the common humanity among people of all backgrounds and nationalities. He carried that view throughout his life, passing it down to those who have loved him throughout the decades.
“I learned so much during the war,” Jack says. “It made me realize that one nationality is no better than the other nationality, it’s what’s in your heart and what you feel that is the big thing.”
On Remembrance Day, Jack will bow his head in gratitude for all who helped him earn that simple wisdom, and thank them for the gift of their selfless dedication.