“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?” – George Canning.
In this mixed media journal entry for Remembrance Day, 2016, I wanted to show the veteran remembering the atrocities he witnessed on the battlefield as a young man.
Remembrance Day must be a time every year when veterans relive moments of despair, of fear, of loss.
The memories of friends dying on the battlefield, of youthful energy spent fighting in the muck and rat infested trenches of foreign soils, of innocence changed to cynicism, of peace of mind, and of contented sleep turned into nightmares of bombs landing nearby, and enemy fire approaching ever closer...
The young men who went overseas full of vigor and optimism returned home changed forever by the unspeakable visions of war.
We had such a man in our family.
The above photo appeared in a local newspaper. The family was unaware that the photographer had taken Uncle George's photo during the ceremony on November 11, 2011.
Nor did the family know at the time that this would be his last Remembrance Day.
George Hanson was 21 when he enrolled for war on January 15, 1943 and was sent to France with the Canadian Infantry Corps.
On August 17, 1944, while Uncle George was on patrol, another soldier stepped on a landmine and was killed. Uncle George was wounded and sent to recuperate in England. He survived the major injuries and was eventually sent home to his family.
On May 2, 1946, he was discharged from military service.
As most men of his generation, Uncle George had a stoic attitude about his war experiences.
He kept his memories to himself and only occasionally did he share his recollections with a few carefully chosen family members.
On this Remembrance Day, as on all others since I met George long ago, I will think of him and remember the kind, gentle, family man.
My gratitude for his service and for the service of so many other brave Canadian men and women will not sleep.