Friday, July 20, 2007

A tribute to my father Vincent Desjardins and all our veterans

A tribute to my father Vincent Desjardins and all our veterans

I always considered my father to be a great man. He always wanted the best for his family. He worked hard and was very honest with everyone. As a young boy during the depression of the 1930's life was hard. My grandparents never had much food and work was scarce. Although my grandfather was able to make ends meet life was tough. I remember my grandfather as the mirror of my father looking just like my dad. Same height, same stature and the same attitude towards life. My grandmother was a brave woman because in the Quebec of the 1930's life was tough and very often you had to raise 10 sometimes to 20 and more. The parents of the 1930's and 1940's were brave and i admire them for what they did. Raise children with morals and values. I truly love having learned so much from my parents. My mom was such a wonderful woman. So patient and gentle and full of wisdom and faith. I am truly blessed to have great parents.

As a young boy my father told me of his was wartime stories in World War 2. My father tried to enlist in 1939 at sixteen but was turned down by the Canadian Army for his young age. Then enlisted at 17 in Quebec City at the Citadele and joined the army with the Royal 22nd regiment. I am very proud of the Royal 22nd Regiment the Vandoos who are serving now in Afghanistan. Like the rest of the Canadian Army, they are to be admired and respected.

My father wanted to join the Canadian army not to go to war and fight people. My father wanted to join the army to help my grandparents earn a living. Like i said times were tough and at Christmas when the Christmas gifts that Santa would bring to the children back in those days would be an orange or maybe an apple and not much more than a fruit. That's how things were back in the depression era. This is why my father joined the army. To help his parent's make ends meet and feed the family because there weren't too many jobs around back in those days. During the 1940's people had a great interest and pride in their patriotism's. So my father joined the army and had his training done in Borden, Ontario, Canada and afterward's was transferred to England on a troop carrier a civilian ship (The Queen Mary, converted into a troop carrier for the war effort) in 1942. My father was trained as a soldier but also as a mechanic and ambulance driver. My father wanted to have more than just one trade. He wanted to be a soldier but also a mechanic and help his fellow soldiers as an ambulance driver. More training followed in England but my dad was getting anxious to see action like thousands of other Canadians waiting in England to see action. The year 1942 came and went and so did 1943. My dad was getting trucks and jeeps readied for the war effort that would be needed to be sent to France eventually but when D day finally came along my father was still stationed in England fixing trucks and seeing his friends go on to the shores of France after June 6Th, 1944. I remember my dad telling me that he was getting quite impatient because he wanted to see action to help free the world of Fascism's and tyranny.

One day an officer came up to my father and to my father's surprise the officer told my dad that he was transferred from the Royal 22nd regiment to The Calgary Higlanders. My father was surprised because he taught that he would fight with the Royal 22nd regiment but was transferred with the Calgary Highlanders. Well my dad did not mind, he was after all with Canadians but the only thing is that he was with English speaking Canadians. You see my father is French Canadian and joined with a French Canadian Regiment and to his surprise was being transferred with guys from western Canada. My dad being from Quebec did not speak much English back in his young days. (This was only normal being from Quebec). He became fluently bilingual afterwards. My dad was in for a surprise because when he arrived with the Calgary Highlanders he felt he was treated like a king! Imagine, the only French Canadian soldier in his platoon with English speaking soldiers. My dad loved it! To his friends in his platoon he was called Frenchie. Then one day in September of 1944 army headquarters told my father and his friends, boys this is it. You are going in to France as reinforcements. My father arrived in France on September 29th,1944 and fought in Northern Europe until September 27, 1945. Also my father was part of the Royal Highland Regiment from September 21, 1945 to September 27, 1945 thus only for one week.

I do remember my father telling me stories that are not funny and sad. These are the casualties of war! I am glad he told me these stories because he had to get it out of his chest! I sometimes wonder if it was myself living these episodes of history how i would have felt. I probably would have been insane after the war. You have to be strong to endure the burden of war! My father fought in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

If you like i can recall a story my father had told me before he died of cancer on May 5, 1990. My father had a military funeral from members of the Canadian Armed forces and the Royal Canadian Legion and i was overwhelmed with the feeling of appreciation for my father but i found out later why all the recognition. This is something he had never told me when he was living!
One day in early 1945 in Holland the Canadian Army were given the order to secure a small island in Holland in the middle of the night so the American Army can pass on the river banks with their Sherman tanks without being shot at by the German Army artillery. Canadian army heaquarters asked the Calgary Highlanders if they could find one hundred volunteers for a special mission. My father was one of them who volunteered. In the middle of the night the one hundred Canadian soldiers in their rubber dinghy's slipped silently on the cold river to the island to secure the shores of the island so the American Sherman tank could travel without being bombed on the other side of the river but somehow the German army were waiting for the Canadians. Someone had betrayed the Canadians and the German army were waiting for them in the middle of the night. It was a real massacre as soon as the Canadians got on the Island the German army started shooting at the Canadians. All hell broke loose. The Calgary Highlanders jumped back in the dinghy's only to be pursued by the German army. On the other side of the river banks the Canadians were running for their lives when my father was escaping with Colonel Campbell from New Brunswick. All of a sudden Colonel Campbell was hit in the leg by a bullet. He told my father, Vince i give you the order to leave me here right now at once! They will make me a Prisoner of war! I give you the order to go now! My father refused the order and instead stayed with Colonel Campbell who was injured in the bushes until the early morning hours and both were able to make it back to the Canadian lines and this made my father a hero for saving Colonel Campbell's life amongst the Calgary Highlanders and the Black Watch Regiment. My father risked being a prisoner of war or even being killed to save Colonel Campbell's life.

My father told me of very interesting stories of his days in the war and i must say that all soldiers must be remembered. Soldiers, Airmen and sailors always stand on guard for our freedom and protection and we must always remember what they have done for us and are doing now to better secure our future.

My father Vincent Desjardins died from cancer in 1990 and i must say he was a brave man who went to war to protect our freedom and democracy and we must be thankful for the millions of Canadians through history who have fought and are still fighting and have given their lives and their freedom and who are far away from their families and loved ones! Canadians are buried on all continents and in so many countries where their was tyranny and oppression. What great courage they have and have given us! Indeed they have given us our freedom! My father came back from Europe in 1946 and married my mother in 1947 and lived their lives to have three wonderful children and succeeded in raising and giving us a terrific family life.


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