It’s the week of Remembrance Day and across all Schlegel Villages, the red and white of the Canadian flag blends with poppy red along every Main Street and neighbourhood. Notes of music from the late-30s and early-40s float to the ear once in a while, and images of blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover come to mind.
It was 80 years ago when Vera Lynn’s song of that name became one of the most played recordings of the War, and most of the residents in our Villages were young at the time. Many know the song and the hope it inspired, but there are fewer and fewer every year who grew to adulthood in the depths of that dark period. Firsthand memories of the Second World War grow harder to come by, but a large number of Canadians of all ages maintain deep connections to the lessons of history. They may be veterans of other wars and conflicts or they may have loved ones who were, and this is the time of year we honour them all.
Outside the chapel on Main Street in The Village of Sandalwood Park sits a simple, yet powerful display. It’s a photo of resident Nick Bruno and a mate standing side-by-side, arms around each other’s shoulders and a cigarette between each serviceman’s fingers. Bruno trained as a heavy artillery gunner with the 13th Field Artillery Division of the Canadian Army, but was only deployed to Europe in the final months of the war in 1945 after his 18th birthday. He admits he felt disappointed not being there in the heart of battle, but he also knows he was spared the bulk of sorrow so many faced because of it. Bruno continued to serve until the late 1940s before he settled into life as a family man and a baker, but his time in the service and the sacrifices of history will always be a part of him.
An important aspect of Remembrance Day is the opportunity to share knowledge with younger generations to ensure they understand the price that was paid for the freedoms so many enjoy today, he says.
“It’s a very important day for young people to remember because, gradually, it’s going to be forgotten,” Nick suggests. At 18 he was shipping overseas, willing to do whatever he could to help, and one wonders how today’s 18-year-olds might react to the same calling.
We see younger people in our Villages carrying the mantle of Remembrance, however. Kai Helsdon is a recreation team member who started working at The Village of Tansley Woods in July. Kai is proud of the legacy of military service in his family and he also served four years with the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. He was unable to join the Canadian Forces but he still pays tribute through his love of historical re-enactments, and his large collection of military artifacts is on display at The Village of Tansley Woods.
Even as a young man, Kai knows Remembrance Day is about the conversations inspired by the sacrifices of the past, which is why he’s happy to do all he can to pay tribute to those who serve, both past and present.
“If we don’t talk about history, it will disappear and we’re bound to repeat it,” Kai says. “By doing these displays it’s a great way to honour our veterans but we can also share the history with the younger generations, and also the older ones.”
Our shared history is in the freedoms we enjoy today, and the Villages are proud to carry the conversation forward.