Many of us have our own reasons to remember Nov 11th. Most Canadians have a parent, Uncle or other relative that died in WWI, II and Korea. Now a new generation knows all to well what the term "sacrifice" really means and have to remember the recent loss of a son, daughter, father, uncle or other in Afghanistan. A thank you to the survivors of those who fell in our recent conflicts and to those that may reluctantly join their ranks.
Now a memorial thought to 2 different soldiers, from two different generation, linked by a common thread. Both survived, one just and the other almost unscathed.
Ernest Alvia 'Smokey' Smith, was born in New Westminster, B.C. in 1914 and educated in elementary and technical schools there. He left his work with a contracting firm to enlist in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada in March 1940, joining the regiment overseas a few months later. He was a private when he won the Victoria Cross at the Savio River in Italy on Oct. 21-22, 1944.
The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were the spearhead of the attack across the river, which torrential rain had caused to rise six feet in five hours, making it impossible to get tanks and anti-tank guns across to support the rifle companies.
The right forward company was suddenly counter-attacked by three Panzer tanks, supported by self-propelled guns and some 30 infantry. Private Smith led his PIAT(projector, infantry, anti-tank) group of two men across an open field and left one man on the weapon. Crossing the road, Private Smith obtained another PIAT. An enemy tank attacked and wounded the man on the first PIAT. Smith fired his own and put the tank out of action. German infantry jumped from the tank and attacked him but Smith drove them back with his tommy gun. Obtaining more tommy magazines which had been abandoned in a ditch, Private Smith steadfastly held his position, and later gave aid to his wounded comrade.
"No further immediate attack developed and as a result, the battalion was able to consolidate the bridgehead position so vital to the success of the whole operation, which led to the eventual capture of San Giorgio Di Cesena and a further advance to the Ronco River," reads the citation in part.
'Smokey' Smith left the army for a short time after the war, but rejoined and served until August 1964, when he was released with the rank of sergeant. http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/feature/smokysmith
I was fortunate enough to meet Smokey a couple of times while visiting the Seaforth mess, He was a soldiers soldier. He certainly was not perfect, apparently he had to be "arrested" and escorted to London by two Military Policemen to ensure he showed up sober in front of the Queen! He was remembered as a bit gruff, but kind to the common soldier. He certainly was not the "perfect hero" but he was heroic when it counted and for that he will be honoured for many generations to come.
Captain Charles Trevor Greene
Greene deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 as a Civilian-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) officer, volunteering from his home unit of the Seaforth Highlanders.
On March 6, 2006, his platoon, composed of members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, 1st Battalion, Alpha Company, visited the village of Shinkay in the Shinkay District, to talk with the village elders about access to clean water and other basic needs under Canada's area of responsibility. After the soldiers removed their helmets, a common practice and show of respect, Abdul Kareem (or Abdullah Karim), a sixteen-year old boy, almost split Greene's brain in half by hitting him with an axe. Kareem tried to hit again but was instantly shot and killed by other members of the platoon. The platoon then came under heavy fire while waiting for a US Army medical evacuation helicopter.Greene received care on the helicopter, and medic Gary Adams was able to unblock his airway. Greene was transported to the then Canadian-led hospital at Kandahar Air Field where he was stabilized.
He was later evacuated to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany from which he was transferred to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest US Army medical facility outside the continental United States.There, he underwent further surgery to allow his brain to swell without causing further damages.
Shortly after being stabilized, Trevor Greene was transferred from Landstuhl to the Vancouver General Hospital, where doctors initially thought he would never come out of his coma.Greene underwent two bilateral cranioplasties, with the second one successfully repairing his skull. He was also subject to physiotherapy sessions, which were lacking results at first. Greene was then released from the hospital and was transferred to a private-care rehabilitation center in Langley, BC. On April 30, Trevor Greene started speech therapy sessions.
In July 2007, Greene was admitted to the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka, Alberta, for long-term care and rehabilitation. At that stage, he had made slow but significant progress, and was able to open and close his hands, among other things.
In December 2007, Canadian Forces engineers installed a lift at Lepore's residence in Alberta, which allowed Trevor to come home for Christmas and on week-ends.Around the same time, they also received a wheelchair accessible van from the then-new Military Casualty Support Foundation.
In September 2008, Greene moved to Nanaimo, BC, with his wife and daughter, after spending 14 months at the Alberta facility. As of 2010, Trevor Greene is now able to stand, but still cannot walk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Greene
I never had the pleasure of meeting Capt Greene, he is a different kind of hero than Smokey, Greene like the other Canadians that volunteered to go to Afghanistan had a pretty good idea of the risks they would be taking, but they went anyways. I can't speak for his time there before he was hit by an axe, but his heroism started then, the slow painful climb back to self sufficiency requires a different kind of courage, His struggle reminds us of all those who did not come back whole and must suffer the disability and the accompanying demon war leaves on the soul.
These are just two examples of what we will be remembering tomorrow, go, mourn, remember and then celebrate those who will not return, those that have returned, those that still suffer and finally those that still face the risks in a combat zone far away.