George Campbell’s eyes welled up with tears.
The pain of remembering things he has internalized his entire life was as strong Thursday as it was when he fought alongside and lost friends during the Korean War.
Campbell, a resident of the Alderwood Retirement Centre in Witless Bay, was a member of the United States Marine Corps, despite being born in Montreal.
“I have kept this all inside ever since I served. That’s just me. I didn’t even tell my wife,” he said.
Campbell enlisted with the U.S. military and rose to the rank of private first class, serving out of Camp Pendleton in California.
His life has taken additional turns along the way, including being injured in Mount Pearl in a bad fall. With nowhere to go, his family found a facility for him to get the care he needed, and that landed him in Witless Bay.
“I am very tearful, very emotional,” he said.
“I lost a lot of good friends. Even now, a ceremony like this makes me wonder about how some of my friends are still doing,” he said after more than 50 residents and community members participated in a Remembrance Day ceremony on Thursday.
Campbell said ceremonies like this one are important to him, and so are ceremonies in communities everywhere, because the sacrifices of the men and women of the military would be for naught if they were not held.
“If we didn’t have these, all this would be completely forgotten. These things are tough to deal with, but we have to remember,” he said.
Lends a helping hand
Helping to make the event special for everyone is resident Theresa Bowen.
“I just try and do what I can to help out,” Bowen said.
“I try and put the poems together, nothing big,” she added, noting she has a special connection to Remembrance Day provided by the memory of her grandfather, who fought in the First World War, and her uncle, who fought in the Second World War.
She is especially interested in the tulip bulbs that each resident planted following the ceremony.
“These bulbs are special, they actually have the maple leaf on petals when they come up,” she said.
Bowen even knows the history of the Princess Irene tulip, a gift to Canada by the Netherlands for housing the Dutch royal family during Germany’s occupation of their country.
Canadian forces led the liberation of the Netherlands, and for their efforts and sacrifices, the Dutch royal family donated tens of thousands of tulips to Canada.
That donation eventually led to the formation of the Canadian Tulip Festival held annually in Ottawa.
During the royal family’s refuge from the war, Princess Margriet was born in exile to then Princess Juliana in Ottawa in 1943. The maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital, in which Princess Margriet was born, was temporarily declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government, thereby allowing her citizenship to be solely influenced by her mother’s Dutch citizenship.
To commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament flew the Dutch flag over the Peace Tower, the only time in history a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian Parliament Building.
Princess Irene of the Netherlands, for whom the tulip was named, is the second child of Queen Juliana.
A number of residents at Alderwood still have a strong connection to the military, as many of their husbands, uncles, fathers and grandfathers served in various branches of the military.
Photos of these individuals were proudly displayed on the mantle in the Alderwood common room, where the service was held. Several residents read poems they helped select that paid homage to those loved ones and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to fight for our rights and freedoms.
Renee Houlihan, the recreation director at Alderwood, said the ceremony and planting of the Princess Irene tulips helped make the day special for the residents.
“They will not only remember today, but on Remembrance Day and again in the spring, when the tulips come up,” Houlihan said.
“That is pretty special for all of us involved.”