I n 1941, shortly after my parents were married, Dad enlisted in the Air Force. They both, left their prairie home and went down east to Toronto, where Dad, went through basic training.
W hile Dad was training in Toronto, Mom did her share, to pay the bills by working in a radio-valve factory. After they were transfered to St. Thomas, mom had to work as a cleaning lady as the factories around there wouldn't hire enlisted men's wives because they tended to move around quite a bit. Finally, when they were sent on to Claresholm, mom worked for the owner and editor of the local paper.
T here was limited living space on the bases, and with the sudden onslaught of so many soldiers, only enlisted personnel, could be accommodated in the barracks. So, Dad, along with all the other married, enlisted men had to move off the base and pay for their own place to live, if they wanted to live with their wives. Even though the pay for an enlisted man was adequate for the times, all the wives had to work to make ends meet. Given all this, the enlisted couples could still only afford a small room, as the price of accommodation had been very inflated because of the high demand for places.
I t never occurred to any of the wives to complain as they either lived the way they were living or stayed at home with their parents. Everyone was in the same boat, so they did not feel badly used at all.
F or recreation, with limited funds, when their husbands weren't studying or drained after training all day, the couples would go for many long walks or to an occasional show. When their husbands were busy, in the evenings, the women would walk down town and window shop in all the store windows. In the east the local bars offered a discount to all the enlisted men and their wives as a courtesy. This policy eventually spread out west but long after it existed in the east.
I asked mom how she felt about the war. She said that neither dad nor any of the other enlisted men, talked about the war or they're training. As a result, she along with most of the wives, didn't think about the war all that much. She had no idea that the men were inundated with horror stories about what was happening to their friends and comrades overseas. Dad never said a word about the grueling training he had endured and managed to hide the fear he was feeling. So much so that it came as a complete surprise to her when she learned that Dad had become ill, by the time they moved to Claresholm.
I t was in Claresholm that my father was discharged for a serious medical condition that he had been trying to hide from everyone. In spite of his efforts, his superior did notice and sent Dad to the hospital where much to his dismay they issued him a medical discharge. Very shortly after Dad's discharge, his regiment was sent to the South Pacific where they were all wiped out immediately upon landing. The fate of his fellow airmen, haunted Dad for the rest of his life. . Over time his nightmares became worse rather than better. I truly believe that a part of him died that day, when he learned that he was the only one of his regiment to survive.
I will always stand in awe of the dedication and courage shown by all of our Canadian soldiers and their families. I can not fathom the horrors these men and women, all volunteers, faced in the name of Canadian freedom. I do know that they are all heroes whether they were killed or wounded while serving their country, seen active duty and survived, or waited in silence to be sent into active duty. You all have my deep respect and admiration. I think of you every time I have an occasion to verbalize an opinion, regardless of it's popularity; when I chose my own path in life; each time I read a book, one 'I' want to read; or worship in the church of my choice. I appreciate your efforts on behalf of my freedom.
C anada continues her proud heritage of being armed with volunteers. Today, young Canadian men and women of equal valor serve as keepers of the peace and guardians of the freedom that our veterans paid so dearly for. To all these fine soldiers and their families, I remain eternally grateful and salute all of you for working so diligently to maintain the tenuous thread of peace, all over the world, so that Canada will remain free.
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