Remembrance Day, a Time for Reflection

1191 for publication November 11, 2016

Ross Brewitt

“Boys, Winnipeg’s Scheifele is leading the NHL with 18 points, and Patrik Laine tops the assists with 11.”

“Must be the mosquitoes,” said one student of the game.

“The Finnish Foghorn,” said another, adding “that kid has been blowing his own tuba since the draft. In fact, he’s a real ‘draft’ in the true sense of the word.”

“Well, Let remind you the Jets are eighth in the West, and nobody saw that coming.”

That was Thursday morning when I stopped into our local coffee-klatch, collared a squished morsel from the community carton on the table and discovered it was a pumpkin-apple no-hole donut. What a lucky break, the house specialty!

The regular orators and DIY gang assembled around two tables were dealing with the problems of the world, much like Donald Trump will face in the coming days. It’s why I decided on bringing the two young aces of the Winnipeg Jets into the discussion. Frankly I’m sick of the Trumpster, and the concerns he’s bringing out for our Yankee friends.

Back to hockey, which was the goal after all, following last season’s failure of any Canadian team to make the playoffs, four of seven are showing good results. In the East Montreal is first, Ottawa fifth, in the west Edmonton second, Winnipeg eighth. The ‘Peg is showing the way. Yes, I realize it’s early.

Still for these Jets youngsters it’s called “a time to grow.”

But, as I left the Chew-and-Choke that morning trailing the usual chorus of heckling, I suddenly lost the smile and had a moment of reflection and thought.

It’s the knowledge there once was a time when it wasn’t just fun and games, and every time the season changes to winter it makes me pause amid the angst and animosity of things petty and political. It explains an unrelated recurring picture I see each time November 11th comes around.

I went back into my history, to my teenage days on a cool, sunny morning, back when Thunder Bay was the Twin Cities, Fort William and Port Arthur, and recalled approaching Donald Street and joining the crowds gathering near the cenotaph for the ceremony about to take place.

Settling into a wall niche, out of the breeze along St. Andrews Church, I noticed the veterans from three services take their places and one in particular stood out. A distinct maroon beret, the crisp uniform including razor sharp pant creases, the bottoms tucked inside rich burgundy “jump” boots, glistening and giving off flashes of reflected light. It made me take a closer look at the soldier wearing them.

And damn if I wasn’t right. It was Alfie Scavarelli, the team trainer for the Fort William Beavers, the local senior hockey team.

As my teen-time turned into responsible adult, I did get to know Alfie personally, far more than a nod on the street. But, that morning when I discovered he was a paratrooper, his pride was on display. What’s more, he gave off an aura of self-esteem and confidence. That impromptu moment sent me looking up the history of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

over the years, travelling across the country, I interviewed many of those paratroopers, including Alfie, and their Colonel Fraser Eadie. They were the forgotten force who were better known in England than in their own country. Those interviews are part of a book-in-waiting.

In capsule form, a little known fact that 90 “pathfinders” of C company, were the first allied troops touching down at 12:30am in front of the Normandy beaches on D-Day. In the dark of night they accomplished all their critical assignments before the morning arrival of the battalion then went on to fight through a hot summer in France. They were recalled from leave as reinforcements for the Americans at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, then made their last jump over the Rhine and landing in Germany in March of 1945.

One thing about that “Rhine drop” I recall from an emotional interview with Alfie at his home in Vickers Heights,  was him saying “as I left the plane I saw the pinpoint flashes of gunfire below, and realized I was picking up speed. When I looked up at the canopy I could see patches of blue… the sky… my ‘chute was gettin’ full of holes.”

It’s hard for us to appreciate the terror and fear that is war. It’s why I wear a poppy where-ever I go. In November leading up to the 11th, many Americans asking about its origin, feel they should have something exactly like it.

I wonder if President Trump would consider it?

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