Rea­sons to re­mem­ber

Hil­lier em­pha­sizes im­por­tance of Nov. 11

The Packet (Clarenville) - - SPORTS - BY KAREN WELLS THE PI­LOT LEWIS­PORTE, NL kwells@pi­lotnl.ca

Grow­ing up in Camp­bell­ton, Gen­eral (Re­tired) Rick Hil­lier was sur­rounded by peo­ple who served in the First World War and Sec­ond World War.

“And for the vast part of my grow­ing up, we never knew a sin­gle one of them – it was pretty in­cred­i­ble,” said the for­mer Chief of the De­fence Staff for Cana­dian Forces in ad­dress­ing those gath­ered for the Lewis­porte Schol­ar­ship Fund gala/ din­ner on Oct. 28.

“We knew peo­ple, but we did not know they had served – that wasn’t rec­og­nized and I know many of you will re­call that,’ he said, “and I think it was ab­so­lutely crim­i­nal that we didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate, we didn’t re­mem­ber, we didn’t com­mem­o­rate the in­cred­i­ble ser­vice they had given us — some at a huge cost to their mind and to their body, even though they had re­turned home.”

So Hil­lier em­braces op­por­tu­ni­ties to rec­og­nize those who have served or serve in the na­tion’s mil­i­tary. He did so on Oct. 28 by pre­sent­ing Com­man­der’s Coins to vet­eran Robert Rose and Trooper Trevor Ben­nett.

The coin says, “For Canada” and fea­tures a statue of the mon­u­ment at Vimy Ridge and a yel­low rib­bon for sup­port of the troops, and has the four maple leafs of the rank of Gen­eral of Chief of De­fence Staff. It is a way for Hil­lier to tell them “thank you” for their ser­vice.

He rec­og­nized the con­tri­bu­tions made dur­ing the Sec­ond World War by sol­diers like Rose.

Hil­lier also noted, “the world is still a nasty place.”

“We still need in­cred­i­ble young men and women to serve our na­tion in uni­form and some­times put their lives at risk, in harm’s way, on our be­half, do­ing things our na­tion asked them to do,” he said in rec­og­niz­ing Ben­nett, who re­cently re­turned from a de­ploy­ment. “I’m glad that you are here tonight and serve our great na­tion.”

Re­mem­brance Day

Hil­lier spoke about the harsh re­al­i­ties of war, the sac­ri­fices made and the in­spi­ra­tion he has gained from so many peo­ple through­out his life and ca­reer.

He noted the im­por­tance of re­mem­ber­ing the vic­to­ries on the bat­tle­field, but also hon­our­ing those lost in the fight.

Hiller spoke of the 100th an­niver­sary of Vimy Ridge and the pride Canada still holds for this vi­tal vic­tory and the lead­er­ship demon­strated by Lt Col Julian Byng. It didn’t come with­out loss, as some 3,600 “Cana­dian boys” died within an eight-hour pe­riod.

This year also marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele. The Cana­di­ans once again were able to take back an area af­ter other na­tions failed to do so. Once again, it came at a cost and the loss of 15,654 Cana­di­ans.

Hil­lier read a let­ter from a Cana­dian sol­dier who had served at Pass­chen­daele, an area known to the Cana­dian mil­i­tary to be syn­ony­mous with mud and sol­diers sink­ing, drown­ing and dy­ing in mud holes and sink holes.

The let­ter de­tailed an in­ci­dent in which he was in­volved in bring­ing in sup­plies. They waded through the mud, mind­ful to stay in line and not ven­ture to the right or left and into a mud pool.

One of the sol­diers did fall in, and ef­forts to save him were un­suc­cess­ful.

Hil­lier read: “We fi­nally pro­cured a rope and man­aged to loop it se­curely un­der his armpits. He was now grad­u­ally sink­ing un­til the mud and the wa­ter reached al­most to his shoul­ders. We tugged at that rope with the strength of des­per­a­tion in an ef­fort to save him, but it was use­less. He was fast in the mud and be­yond hu­man as­sis­tance. Re­luc­tantly the party had to leave him to his fate and that fate was grad­u­ally sink­ing inch by inch and fi­nally dy­ing of suf­fo­ca­tion. The poor fella now knew he was be­yond all aid and begged me to shoot him, rather than leave him to die a mis­er­able death of suf­fo­ca­tion. I did not want to do this, but think­ing of the ag­o­nies he would en­dure if I left him to this fate I de­cided a quick death would be a mer­ci­ful end­ing. I am not afraid to say there­fore that I shot this man at his most ur­gent re­quest, thus re­leas­ing him from a far more ag­o­niz­ing end.”

Hiller said to those gath­ered, “ladies and gen­tle­men, when you stop and think 100 years ago, of the kind of de­ci­sions, of the kind of sit­u­a­tions that Cana­di­ans were in, how could we not go out on 11 Novem­ber, com­ing up very soon, and re­mem­ber and say thank you and ap­pre­ci­ate that ser­vice.”

He went on to speak of the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment and some of the no­table con­tri­bu­tions made at Monchyle-Preux and Beau­mont-Hamel, where on July 1, 1916, 801 sol­diers went over the top and only 68 were there to an­swer the roll call the next morn­ing.

“There went the lead­er­ship of our great prov­ince for re­ally the next 50 years,” Hil­lier said.

Dur­ing vis­its to Beau­mont-Hamel, Hil­lier and his wife Joyce will bring along beach rocks from places like Lau­rence­ton, where peo­ple like Pte. Al­lan Tet­ford came from, and fought and sur­vived.

And from places like Com­fort Cove where Pte Willis White was a lum­ber­man be­fore the war. Hil­lier noted that the White fam­ily had re­ceived a telegram in April of 1916, in­form­ing them that their son was killed. It was a case of mis­taken iden­tity, as White had loaned his field jacket to a fel­low sol­dier who was killed by en­emy fire. The man wear­ing the jacket died, and White was left un­con­scious in the at­tack. The body was iden­ti­fied ac­cord­ing to the jacket he was wear­ing, and thus the rea­son for the telegram to the fam­ily of Willis White.

White re­gained con­scious­ness three weeks later and was able to iden­tify him­self. Thus a telegram was for­warded to his fam­ily ad­vis­ing that he was in­deed alive.

In a cruel twist of fate, White was one of those killed at Beau­mont-Hamel months later, and a telegram was once again sent to the fam­ily for a sec­ond time ad­vis­ing of his death.

“Can you imag­ine that fam­ily – you know they must have been as­sum­ing, think­ing, hop­ing, believ­ing maybe that that was go­ing to be a mis­take again,” Hil­lier said.

He added, “It would be wrong to stand up here and talk if we didn’t say, it’s com­ing up to 11 of Novem­ber. We re­mem­ber the men who went up Vimy Ridge, we re­mem­ber the men who fought at Pass­chen­daele and we re­mem­ber the New­found­lan­ders who did us proud by the loy­alty and the courage that they showed to their brothers and their fa­thers and their sons, be­cause they wouldn’t let each other down, no mat­ter how hor­ri­ble it was.”

Hil­lier went on to speak about those that have of­fered in­spi­ra­tion to him, whether it be from the bat­tle­field 100 years ago to present-day sol­diers in the Cana­dian mil­i­tary and those who show their sup­port to those who serve. The rea­sons to be a part of hon­our­ing them on Nov. 11 just kept adding up.

PHO­TOS BY KAREN WELLS/THE PI­LOT

Sec­ond World War vet­eran Robert Rose of Lewis­porte ac­cepted a Com­man­der’s Coin from Gen­eral (Re­tired) Rick Hil­lier. The for­mer Chief of the De­fence Staff for Cana­dian Forces was the guest speaker for the Lewis­porte Col­le­giate Schol­ar­ship Fund gala/din­ner on Oct. 28. In mak­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion to Rose, Hil­lier said that he “won the fight for free­dom – who de­stroyed the Nazi beast and built the in­cred­i­ble so­ci­eties and coun­tries we en­joy so much.”

Gen­eral (Re­tired) Rick Hil­lier pre­sented Trooper Trevor Ben­nett with a Com­man­der’s Coin. Hav­ing re­turned from a re­cent de­ploy­ment, Hil­lier noted he could not say which unit Ben­nett serves in. Pic­tured are Lewis­porte-Twill­ingate MHA Derek Ben­nett, Hil­lier and Trooper Trevor Ben­nett. Derek is Trevor’s un­cle.

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