From the Desk of Don Slinger Issue 34

Winter 1999 CSANews Issue 34  |  Posted date : Mar 04, 2007.Back to list

Hi Folks!

Lest we forget. A simple three-word phrase repeated by many but understood by few. What better time for a veteran of the Second World War to reflect than on Remembrance Day. We won't forget that at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Armistice was signed.

The tradition of the two-minute silence to honour the dead began in South Africa, but the idea soon spread throughout Britain and the Commonwealth. It has never lost its significance and today we also honour the dead from the Second World War and the Korean conflict.

During this century, more than 1.7 million Canadians served in the military overseas. More than 116,000 never returned from battle. While about 350,000 Canadian veterans of the Second World War are still living, barely 500 veterans of the First World War the war that was supposed to end all wars survive today.

In every instance, Canadians went overseas to help our allies snuff out the attacks of aggressors. This was not a benevolent action but, rather, a strategic one planned to keep the aggressors away from our Canadian borders. One could liken it to a forest fire. If we catch it early enough, we can put it out with minimal loss but, if it were to rage uncontrolled, the damage would be immeasurable.

I was pleased to see so many people wearing a poppy during the weeks prior to November 11th. The poppy was adopted in 1921 as the official symbol of Canada's Great War Veterans' Association. I have more than a passing interest in this symbolism because it was derived from Col. John McCrae's poem, 'In Flanders Field.' I was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario as was John McCrae. A couple of our children attended John McCrae Public School. If you haven't read the poem, please do. The message jumps right out at you.

Continuing on a personal note, three of the Slinger family served in the armed forces. My older brother, John, was a major in the Tank Corps. He was wounded in Sicily when his tank was blown up. The shrapnel certainly had a detrimental effect through the years after the war. My father-in-law, Roy Thompson, was hit with shrapnel during the First World War and suffered from exposure to gas for many years.

My younger sister, Alice, served in the Navy as a WREN. And then there was me an army man. While in England, I was a vehicle-driving instructor. We kept in shape while overseas by competing in lots of team sports against other clubs. You may know one of my basketball teammates – his name is Howie Meeker.

I also served in Belgium, Holland and Germany. All the time we were overseas, my brother and I wrote weekly letters home. We never said much in our letters but, to the family, the arrival of these letters spoke volumes. When I arrived back home after the war, my mother handed me a box containing all the letters I had sent, with a simple comment, 'Thanks for these.'

It was time to wind down one career and begin another.

In conclusion, every Canadian should be reminded that the cost of freedom does not come cheaply but it is worth every dime we pay. Just look around the world and you will understand what I mean.

A thought for the day: Spread seeds of love watch miracles grow.