Never again

Uxbridge Secondary School students pose in front of German gun emplacement during their field trip to D-Day beaches in France.

They all looked sharp in their specially tailored commemorative jackets. They responded to the atmosphere of being away from home on a field trip with not unexpected exuberance; they looked pretty pumped. But when several of them spoke publicly the other night in Ypres, Belgium, I could tell these teenagers had changed even in the few days we’ve been away.

One of them, Sam Futhy, a Grade 10 student from Uxbridge Secondary School, noted a visit to one of the Great War cemeteries.

“When I saw the number of grave stones,” he said. “I don’t know. It just hit me.”

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.