Veterans Day US - Remembrance Day in CDN - Eleven, Eleven - Part Two
I wrestled with my conscience for some time as I watched more and more able man from our town enlist in the navy. I spent many sleepless nights wondering how I could live with myself if I stayed home when my country and its future were in such great peril. In the end, I knew I COULD NOT STAND BY AND DO NOTHING.
Mary Beth was inconsolable when I told her of my decision. The morning I left, Mom and Dad and Mary Beth saw me off at the train depot. I would soon be in Halifax and then aboard the British ship, the WESTERN HEAD.
Dad took the Saint Christopher medal from around his neck and placed it around mine. Mom gave me a string of rosary beads. Mary Beth presented me with a silver ring. Engraved on it were two hearts entwined. She slipped it on my pinkie finger and kissed me one last time. The last thing I saw as I boarded the train were her tears.
It was the 28th day of May 1942. We were taking supplies to an army base in Central America. We were 50 miles east of Guantanamo, Bay. I was in the engine room oiling the machinery and day-dreaming of my wedding day. I envisioned myself in the church with Mary Beth, standing before the priest in the presence of God, My Mother and Father, brothers and sisters, and all those I knew and loved. That was the last conscious thought I had before the torpedo from a German U-boat HIT the Western Head and the sea I had once so loved, became my final resting place.
In the church-yard cemetery adjacent to this park, my Mother and Father and several of my siblings now lay at rest. A headstone that bears my name sits abreast and empty grave where a million tears have been shed.
Mary Beth in time went on with her life and married my old pal, Charlie Winters, who had survived the war. They eventually moved to Halifax and had the children I had so longed for, but that was many years ago.
Now, here in this place where so many of my dreams and memories were made, a beautiful young woman who reminds me so much of Mary Beth places a wreath at the foot of a monument bearing the names of those who hailed from this tiny almost forgotten town. She reads the names of those who gave their lives so she and those who remain can walk along this path of freedom today.
She bows her head and stands in silence for a few minutes. She turns to leave and notices the heart-shaped scars carved on an old oak which stands so close to the monument. She walks over to the tree and presses her palm against the hearts, then traces them with her fingertip. After a few minutes of contemplation, she turns and walks away as a sudden breeze gives flight to the dying leaves, and for a few fleeting moments, the sky is ablaze with those flying flames of autumn once again.
I have written this story in memory of my Father's brother, who died in the line of duty at the age of 21 during the second world war. I have written it from the perspective of his spirit telling the story. By so doing, I hope the reader will never forget the ultimate sacrifice he and all the others who gave their lives for we who remain.
Copyright © Elaine George | Year Posted 2018