Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembrance Day Reflections

I'm prouder to be a Canadian on Remembrance Day than on any other day of the year. When I was 12, my parents took my best friend and I over to Europe, and my dad made sure we visited some of the most important Canadian WWI sites. I've never forgotten that trip, or how I felt standing on those battlefields and in the cemeteries. Humbled and awed, and incredibly sad that so many young men died in the war that was meant to end all wars...but didn't.

A month ago my best cousin and I traveled to Europe, and visited Normandy, France. Our first stop there was to Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on June 6th, 1944 for their part in the D-Day invasion of Operation Overlord.

A few days before arriving there, I happened to learn a very interesting fact. To give you a point of reference, my father was president of Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers for a long time, and worked as the right hand man of the CEO, Dave Ritchie. The Ritchies are from Kelowna, a small city in the interior of BC.

Turns out, Dave's eldest brother volunteered to fight during WWII, and was killed at Juno Beach. My father says Dave remembered his eldest brother marching through the streets of Kelowna on their way to war while the crowd cheered them on. Dave ran after him, and his brother told him to go stand with their parents. That's the last time Dave ever saw him.

On the way to Normandy from Paris, my cousin and I passed a Ritchie Bros. yard on the main highway. I didn't think much of it at the time, except to point it out to my cousin. We visited Juno Beach and the visitors center, then went to the Canadian cemetery and found Dave's brother's grave--not forty five minutes' drive from where the yard now stands. It gave me goose bumps to know the eldest brother had died liberating France, and because of him and his fellow soldiers turning the tide of the war, sixty years later his baby brother was able to set up part of his empire there.

So this Remembrance Day I'm thinking of Corporal William Ritchie, and the ultimate sacrifice he made. I wonder if he knows the part he played in helping his little brother.


Katie Reus said...

I'm a little late posting, but thanks for such a fascinating post :)