Beach Memories: As Remembrance Day approaches, think of those who sacrificed for peace

Beach Metro News columnist Gene Domagala stands by the cenotaph in St. John's Norway Cemetery.


As we approach Remembrance Day on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., we recall all the horrific wars that were fought and the millions of soldiers that died and the millions of civilians who also died – and to what end?

Throughout the last decade, and the last 10,000 years of recorded history, there has not been a time of peace in our world.

Battles have been fought with rocks and clubs, spears, guns, cannons, ships, warplanes, atomic bombs, and hydrogen bombs. Tribes have been fighting tribes, nations have been fighting nations creating havoc on earth that has never seen an equal.

We see soldiers wounded in so many ways as a result of these chaotic wars. I don’t think any place on earth has escaped the horrors of destruction of cities, countries and civilizations.

We Canadians are not immune to these catastrophes as we honour our gallant fallen heroes; those who have died and those who are still alive on Remembrance Day.

The world has suffered through the Grecian wars of 2,000 years ago through to the Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War, the First World War and the Second World War, and the fighting in the Middle East.

Some of these wars have tried to annihilate entire nations and religions such as The Holocaust of the 20th Century.

I could write, others could write better than I, about these terrible wars. War is hell, and I will have others write about them.

But let us ask ourselves this question: Has anybody, any nation, tried to stop or end war on our planet?  The answer is yes. Many times people and organizations have tried, to no avail.

However, we do have one person, a great person and a great Canadian in my opinion. He was also a great Prime Minister, and his name was Lester B. Pearson. He was born on April 23, 1897, and died on Dec. 27, 1972.

Pearson was born in Newtonbrook, which is now part of Toronto, and was the son of a Methodist minister. He attended the University of Toronto and studied various subjects when the First World War started.

Before we continue, there were two organizations in the 20th Century that tried to have peace in our world. The League of Nations was established after the First World War, to no avail. The United Nations started after the Second World War, and history can judge whether it has been a success.

Pearson joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps and served overseas in the First World War. Later, he joined the flying corps until his military career ended with a plane crash. He was also involved in an automobile accident during the war.

Pearson was no stranger to war, but he chose peace in the end.

After the First World War, Pearson continued his studies and went to Oxford then returned again to the University of Toronto where he lectured and also coached football and hockey amongst other activities.

He had a keen mind for world affairs, especially in Canada. He left the University of Toronto and joined the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department in 1928.

The Canadian government realized Pearson had talent and placed him in strategic areas. He went to London in the 1930s, and he realized that Adolf Hitler and his regime were a threat to world peace.

Pearson was known for his tenacity, and when he returned to Canada he was then posted to Washington. Later he was appointed Canada’s Ambassador to the United States in 1945.

This was the acceleration of his career in Foreign Affairs.

Pearson had knowledge of many issues. He was involved in the United Nations and was chair of the Food and Agriculture Committee.

Pearson had a clear view of war, peace, communism, totalitarianism, refugees and more through his work with the United Nations.

He was recalled to Canada as undersecretary for External Affairs and then became Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Pearson was known for his energy and capability at the United Nations and would have been the Secretary General of the U.N. but for his animosity towards the Soviet Union. He was vetoed twice by them.

During this time there was war in the Middle East, Indochina and Greece. Pearson had keen knowledge of these wars and took great interest in trying to keep the peace in our troubled world.

He hated war and knew its horrors, and he started working on ways to stop it or at least do something to try and stop it. He wanted some way to do this, and in the Middle East he came up with the idea of a U.N. Peacekeeping Force and it came into being because of him.

In recognition of his great contribution and tireless interest in Peace In Our Time, Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. He is the only Canadian to receive this honour.

He was also interested in politics and joined the Liberal Party. He became party leader and was elected Prime Minister in 1963. It was his idea to give us a new Canadian flag.

On this coming Remembrance Day, let us not forget great Canadian heroes in the armed forces who gave their lives in the cause of peace, not war.

I had the honour of going to Lester B. Pearson’s funeral in Ottawa, and he was a great Canadian.

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