“..Some things are worth fighting for!”

By P.A. Sévigny on November 13, 2008

Last Sunday, Montreal’s St. James United Church held its annual Remembrance Day service to honor all who served and died for this nation during all of its wars.

Tears could be seen on a woman’s face as she sat alone in her pew while the St. James choir sang its final hymn.

Weep for the dead. Let tears and silence tell

Of blood and battle, horror and renown.

The years diminish, but do not dispel

The pain of lives destroyed and life laid down.

During World War I, over 300 members of this church left their homes and families to go to fight the first of this century’s great wars.. To the right as you walk into the church, the sun lights up the stained-glass window raised to those members of the church who served, and especially those who died in Europe. The window is a triptych where a common soldier, armed with rifle and bayonet, stands ready for battle. With the four virtues by his side and comrades to watch his back, the window is a splendid piece of evocative artwork. Eighty odd years after its creation, it still evokes the terrible beauties of the pain and sacrifice borne by soldiers and their loved ones as they fought for this nation. Just as the window evokes the memory of those who fought and died in the bloody bogs of Northern France ninety years ago, its congregation is praying for Canadians who are now fighting, bleeding and sometimes dying in the dry and dusty hills of southern Afghanistan.

Silent the dead. Remembering we stand

Silent as they, for words cannot esteem

Causes of war, the love of native land,

All that they were, and all they might have been.

Since 1924, over 116 000 Canadians have died in combat all over the world. Some of their graves can be found in 74 different countries around the world and some, as one can read on their gravestones, are “..only known to God.”

They include Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarsky out of Winnipeg who died trying to free his bomber’s tail gunner. Mynarsky won the Victoria Cross for Valor. Private Etienne Bernier joined the army because he was cold and he needed a job. He was a woodsman from the Gaspe and he was the regiment’s ‘scrounger’ who loved to fish. Bernier was shot and killed by a sniper while trying to catch some fish during a break in the fighting near Caen in Normandy. Captain Charlie Gagnon was a commando who died when his glider crashed and burned after being shot up by a machine gun during the battle of Arnheim. In Hong Kong on Christmas Day, Sgt. John Robert Osborne fought hard against the Japanese all day against impossible odds until a grenade fell into the midst of his platoon. Shouting a warning, he jumped on the bomb and was killed when it exploded. Just before leaving his homestead in Northern Alberta, Chipman Kerr left a note tacked to the door.

“War may be hell,” it read “ but what’s homesteading?

During a hard fight against a determined enemy, he lost his fingers but saved his regiment as he held a trench by himself after everybody else was killed.

Summoned by love that leaves no room for pride,

We pray that every continent and isle,

Wounded by war, war’s hate may lay aside,

And find a way to heal and reconcile.

Sixty years after some of the hardest fighting of the war, Captain Pierre Sévigny still mourned the man he killed during the Battle of the Falaise Gap.

While fishing on a lake in Northern Québec, he said he knew things could have been different but he still thought of the dead man’s parents, of grieving wives and lovers, of fathers losing their children and children losing their fathers. After sixty years, he honestly thought he was the only one left who mourned for the dead German Lieutenant. On May 17, 2006, Captain Nichola Goddard was a forward observation officer who would be the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in action since World War II. After being informed of the situation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement on the death of Capt. Goddard.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to express our profound regret and sadness at news of the death of Captain Nichola Goddard.

“Captain Goddard died while helping to bring peace, stability and democracy to a troubled region of the world. She, and the other men and women who serve in Afghanistan, are involved in a difficult and dangerous mission. They are serving our country and its people with distinction. Our nation will not forget their sacrifice….Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with the families and loved ones of all those serving in Afghanistan.”

Captain Goddard is buried among her brothers and sisters in arms in the military section of the National Cemetery in Ottawa.

Weep for the dead, from all the ills of the earth.

Stand by the cross that bids all hatred cease.

March to the drums of dignity and worth.

Salute the King of Love, the Prince of Peace.

Amen.

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