The living and the dead

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Here are three names you might not have heard before: Stephen Joseph Rodgers, Richard A. Nugent and Victor H.B. Snow.

It’s not immediately obvious if, in life, they even knew each other. In death, though, they are remarkably close.

Rodgers, Nugent and Snow share adjacent plots in the Field of Honour at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John’s.

The Field of Honour is a daunting, windswept place in November: ranks of field-grey, rectangular headstones with black lettering, a decidedly military formation in amongst the otherwise much broader variety of grave markers.

Snow was a bombadier with the Royal Artillery. He died at the age of 70 on May 21, 1990. Nugent was a gunner with the Royal Artillery who died on July 5, 1990, having reached the age of 70 as well. Rodgers, also with the Royal Artillery, died two weeks after Nugent, on July 19, 1990, at the age of 74.

The Royal Artillery recruited 2,300 Newfoundlanders during the Second World War. Its original call for recruits, according to Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage, sought volunteers between the ages of 20 and 35, weighing at least 112 pounds and standing no less than five feet, four inches tall, with “sound physique and good eyesight.” The two Newfoundland battalions of the Royal Artillery, between them, saw action in North Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Remembrance Day — today, Nov. 11 — is a day set aside to remember those who served, and particularly those who were among the fallen during two World Wars and countless other conflicts on behalf of our country. The focus is often on those who did not return, on the sacrifices they made for their friends, families and country.

So why mention Rodgers, Nugent and Snow today, three men who returned and lived relatively long lives?

Because they gave, too, and, like many former soldiers, likely carried what they experienced in war for the rest of their lives.

Unlike the soldiers who are buried far away, these three went on to live among us, spending more than 40 years with their memories of war, perhaps physical, perhaps psychological.

Their fellows — Canadians who have faced battle, both in combat and peacekeeping roles — walk among us, and many will do so, like Rodgers, Nugent and Snow, well into their 70s and 80s.

Some need our support now; many will need our support later.

When we stand today and remember those who gave their lives, we shouldn’t forget that our responsibility to those who have served this country extends to far more than a bowed head for a few moments of silence. Governments seem sometimes to forget that responsibility.

Certainly, remember those who have passed on or who died in conflicts.

But don’t dare forget those who served and need us now, next week and next year.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, North Africa, Italy France Belgium

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  • Catherine Hesson
    November 11, 2013 - 10:52

    It was lovely to read this article this morning. I was thinking very hard about my Dad, Major V.H.B. Snow, when my sister Linda phoned me and read it to. He left home at the age of 20 with ten dollars in his pocket to luckily return back to St. John's five years later. Most can not imagine what he saw and what he lived through. Thanks for helping others to remember...The living and the Dead.

  • Dee
    November 11, 2013 - 09:46

    The Remembrance Day commercials would have one believe that only WWII and Korea Vets are left. What Canadians don't understand is that everyone who takes the oath, completes training and is released honorably is a veteran. Some go overseas, some don't. Does that mean they made less of a contribution? After all training and responding to disasters at home present their own risks. Look at the sailors who developed PTSD due to Swiss Air recovery. Those injured helping in the Ice Storm or Red River flooding or while training. Most of all, remember that Harper has stolen benefits from veterans. So much so, we have a climbing homeless vet population, a climbing suicide rate and a climbing rate of poverty among veterans. Disgraceful.