Amherst veteran dismayed by vandalism of Vimy oak
Canadian Coasters have spent the summer travelling the country from coast to coast for their 50th anniversary tour
There are a lot of things military veteran Jack Berry has seen in his life, but nothing has hurt him more than the sight of a broken oak.
“I’m 86-years-old and a member of the Legion for 60-years, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Berry said, holding the young sapling in his hands. “I’m just sick to my stomach.”
Berry has served in Europe and all over Canada and this dying oak, he says, is not just any tree. It’s a direct descendent of a very specific oak that once stood at the sight of France’s Vimy Ridge where Canadians defined their military prowess during the first World War.
Following the 1917 battle one hundred years ago, one soldier gathered up a handful of acorns from a half-buried oak on the battlefield and later planted them at his Ontario home. The Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, an entity formed to create living memorials at Vimy and across Canada, now provide descendants of that oak to communities through application. Working with the Town of Amherst, Berry and Amherst’s branch of the Royal Canadian Legion thought they had successfully met all of the qualifications, which included making sure they oak would be in a prominent place in the community.
What they hadn’t planned for was cruel intentions.
“Sometime between Sunday and Tuesday it was snapped off [it’s roots]. Our horticulturalist found it,” Amherst’ Recreation Director Bill Schurman said. “Obviously, we were sad, and contacted the police chief and he was very quick to respond.”
The Amherst Police issued a request for assistance on social media looking for information on who was responsible, but Berry says there is very little punishment that can outweigh the sentiment connected with the branch and the legacy its connected with. The legion does have a second application for another Vimy oak and, if successful, Berry hopes the person responsible will be brave enough to come out and learn of the sacrifices Canadians have made in wartime, and how something as simple as a tree can hold such significance in the hearts of veterans and their families.
“[We] purchase things like this so we can remember our heroes,” Berry said. “We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them… I’d like to invite whoever did this to the new tree planting ceremony. Please come.”
If anyone saw or heard anything that might help authorities with this unfortunate act, please report it to Amherst Police at 902667-8600.
A sense of sadness and disappointment came over Amherst’s Jack Berry when he learned a descendant of an oak present at the battle for Vimy Ridge was destroyed this week.
Reflecting on Canada’s military role at Vimy Ridge in 1917, the leaves of this oak sapling in veteran Jack Berry’s hands mirror its ancestor, which was present during the intense battle.