My father Paul Martin is over 93 years old and was born and raised in Transcona. When he was 19 years old he joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He came ashore during the first wave of the D–Day landings on Juno Beach.
My father lost a number of Transcona school friends during the war and made a pledge that when he returned home he would let future generations know about what his comrades and other veterans did.
My father has kept his promise for the last 35 years by speaking to students at Transcona schools in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.
The first school he spoke at so many years ago was Central School and this year, on Nov. 7, while speaking at École Centrale, he announced he was retiring from this role and asked the younger generations to keep his message of remembrance flowing.
My father asked the students if they saw him on the street to offer him a silent salute of thanks. When he finished his speech there was no applause but most hands in the room moved into a silent salute. Only after the salute did applause follow.
As my father headed down the hallway, using his walker, a line of students and parents formed on each side of him. As he passed, each person saluted a soldier who cared about preserving the memory and sacrifices of all those who served and especially for the ultimate sacrifice given by so many.
There is no doubt my father has touched many lives during the years. In fact, just before he spoke, a man approached to shake his hand and let him know that he remembered hearing the school talks as he was growing up and that now his daughter was hearing the same message. What a legacy.
My father has always been a patriotic Canadian and he has a tall flagpole in his back yard where the Canadian flag proudly flies.
A couple of weeks before Remembrance Day, my father noticed the flag had begun to tear and fray at the edges, so he placed a call to his member of Parliament, Lawrence Toet, to help him find a replacement. Within a few days, MP Toet was at my father’s house with a brand new flag. My father was struck by the fact Mr. Toet actually came to his house. What was really surprising was that a politician could do something so special and not invite media.
Thank you, Lawrence, for doing that for my father. He was touched.
I would ask all those who have seen my father speak at their school over the past three or more decades to offer a silent salute when they see him. He will know what it means.
That is all he wants and that is really what all soldiers want and deserve — a salute of thanks and appreciation. My father has retired but his message must carry forward and he has entrusted the role to younger generations.
I have met with the Transcona Legion, Branch No. 7 leaders and we will be seeking individuals of all ages to be part of speaker training before Remembrance day, 2014.
We will work with you, provide the information needed and actually provide training on presentation skills and techniques.
If you are interested in being part of the speaker team, please contact me through the Transcona Legion.
Peter Martin is president of the Transcona Historical Museum, president of the Transcona Playground Renewal Association and carrier of the Torch of Remembrance for the Transcona Legion Branch No. 7.