For many years Canada Day has been a day of mixed emotions for me. As a Canadian born in Newfoundland the day also brings to mind the terrible price of war. In my native province July 1 has been set aside as a Memorial Day commemorating the First Newfoundland Regiment and the ultimate sacrifice they paid at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916 – one hundred years ago!
At that point in time the province was known as the Dominion of Newfoundland and its armed forces served under Britain. On that fateful day Allied forces had developed strategies to be employed at the Battle of the Somme, of which the French village of Beaumont Hamel played a crucial role.
The First Newfoundland Regiment was to be the third wave of soldiers to rush enemy lines at Beaumont Hamel and despite the decimation of the first two waves the men were ordered to stay the course. In less than an hour 324 soldiers lay dead and a further 386 were wounded – only 68 men were there to answer roll call at the end of the day. The First Newfoundland Regiment was all but wiped out.
Both my paternal and my maternal grandfathers served in both World Wars. Fortunately they both survived where thousands of others did not. I will remember them, especially on July 1, but I will also wave the Canadian flag with gratitude and pride.
This year, in particular, I am especially grateful to be a Canadian. On May 3rd the residents of my new home of Fort McMurray, Alberta, were forced to flee wildfires and the outpouring of support from every nook and cranny across the country bolstered our spirits and gladdened our hearts.
It has been said the best thing to give our children is roots and wings.My roots will always be back in Newfoundland and Labrador where I learned to remember and respect the cost of the freedom I enjoy and also where I was given the wings of courage to fly to new places and experience new things. There is much I have to give thanks for on July 1st. I salute our armed forces who give their all to protect us. I also give thanks for the generosity and kindness of Canadians who have been with us through the ordeal of evacuation and facing the difficulties of re-building of our community. Although we stand in the shadow of the fire, we still stand – thanking Canada!