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Remembering the Unsung war heroes

Posted on November 21, 2013 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Rob Ficiur

The days leading up to Remembrance Day had many documentaries honoring the

veterans who risked and gave their all for our safety. Who were the Unsung

Heroes and victims of the war?

On Remembrance Day afternoon, an episode from “Wind at My Back” brought to

life the real heroes and costs of war. Wind at My Back is a fictional

Canadian TV drama set in the Great Depression. The episode that I watched

on November 11 was entitled Remembrance Day. It was set in 1935, seventeen

years after the end of the Great War (which we call World War 1) and four

years before the start of World War 2. Though the show is fictional, the

characters in this episode gave me insights and appreciation of the

sacrifice Canadians made to keep our country safe.

Henry is a fourteen year old boy who has been assigned to read a poem at the

town’s Remembrance Day service. During the episode, Henry displayed a

youthful enthusiasm for war. When he talked to Alden Cramp, a World War 1

veteran, he asked, “Did you kick some German butt when you were in the war?”

Mr. Cramp offered to kick Henry’s butt if he did not go one with what he was

suppose to do. 

Alden Cramp is a minor character in the show’s five year run. Everyone in

town knows that Alden fought in World War 1. However, for unknown reasons

he always refuses to participate in the town’s commemorative ceremony. When

his wife pushes him as to why he won’t participate, he snaps at her. For

more than a week leading up to the service, he barely spoke a word to

anyone.

Mrs. Whitney was asked to be Silver Cross mother, as the town unveiled its

new cenotaph. Mrs. Whitney, who lost three sons in the Great War,

reluctantly agreed.

Karl visits his home town for the first time in twenty years. While the

rest of his classmates were marching off to be in the Great War, Karl

refused to go saying that he was a Conscientious Objector. Pressure was so

intense that Karl had to move away. 

As the time for the ceremony approaches, Mrs. Whitney finds Alden alone in

his basement, drinking and remembering. She again asks him to participate

in the ceremony. Alden finally opened up to someone. Though he had

received several medals, Alden said he was no hero. As a commanding

officer, Alden still agonized because 29 men under his command were killed

in battle. Alden risked his life to save three of his company. Alden ran

out into no man’s land (open space between two fighting armies) and dragging

the three back to safety; hence the medals. One of his men died an hour

later. The second had to have both legs amputated. He was furious that

Alden had saved him. What kind of life was he going to have? Alden had

lost 29 of his boys in the Great War.

Now that Mrs. Whitney understood Alden, she shared her story. She was there

to see her boys off with the train. Everyone knew (thought they knew) that

the war would be over by Christmas. As time dragged on and one by one her

sons were lost. She prayed, pleaded let one come back. Now nearly twenty

years later she wished her sons had not gone to war. She did not feel like

a war hero.

As the Bailey family prepared to go to the ceremony, Mae Bailey looked at

the bugle and scarf one of her son’s used during World War 1. Though Mae

appreciates the sacrifice that Mrs. Whitney made losing three sons, no one

understood that the sons that came home alive from the war were not the

same. Now we are beginning to understand post traumatic stress syndrome.

At this time, all this mother knew was that the war had taken away something

from her sons.

Each of these fictional characters are heroes and victims of the Great War.

These fictional characters represents a generation of families that were

torn apart by what people called the War to End All Wars.

The episode ends with Mae’s grand kids playing a game in the family room.

Mae is half listening to the radio news of the day. There had been a

protest in Toronto because the Hitler Government had representatives in

Canada promoting the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In Italy one million troops

parading before dictator Biento Mussolini. The audience knows that another

generation was only a few years a way from being torn apart an even more

devastating war.

As we honor those who gave their lives for the freedoms we have; there are

more people who sacrificed than we sometimes realize. 

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