The true cost of it all

La Chaudiere Military Cemetery in France.

We arrived in the late afternoon. Shadows from an encircling grove of trees cast eerie slivers of light and dark across the manicured cemetery grounds – the grass cropped short, the flowers freshly tended. I watched one of my fellow travellers, Valerie Flanagan, move from one line of tombstones to the next. Our walk through La Chaudiere Military Cemetery just below the famous Vimy Ridge, a few days ago, was the culmination of a long journey for her. Then, she saw it – her grandfather’s grave.

“I’m so glad I made it here,” she said. “I didn’t know how I’d feel.”

Cuts more than skin deep

Parks Canada guide, Sylvie, greeted our tour group to Beaumont-Hamel, this past spring.

As we arrived, she emerged from the information pavilion. She wore her identifiable green uniform, complete with department identification and Maple Leaf insignia. She offered a warm welcome and explained she would be our guide for the next half-hour. She was a long way from home, but made us feel as if we had never left Canada.

“Welcome to the Beaumont-Hamel National Historic Site,” the young woman said. I learned later her name was Sylvie, a student from Winnipeg, and that she was employed for several months by Parks Canada to guide visitors around the site.