In My Opinion: The 80th anniversary of D-Day and an answer to the question what are they marching for?

Infantrymen in a Landing Craft Assault (LCA) going ashore from HMCS Prince Henry off the Normandy beachhead on D-Day. Photo by Dennis Sullivan, Canada. Dept. of National Defence, Library and Archives Canada.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

EDITOR, BEACH METRO COMMUNITY NEWS

In the May 28 edition of Beach Metro Community News there’s a story by one of our Malvern Collegiate co-op students about D-Day.

Writer Jack Skinner mentions I had assigned him a story about D-Day and what high school students knew or thought about it 80 years later. (You can read Jack’s story at https://beachmetro.com/2024/06/03/the-80th-anniversary-of-d-day-what-d-day-means-to-a-local-high-school-student/ )

But as often happens in journalism, the story that was found was not the one that was expected. The facts get in the way and mess up our pre-conceived notions.

I was going to start this column with some lines from the 1971 song by Eric Bogle, called And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The lines of the song are:

“And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reviving old dreams of past glories
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “what are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question
But the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday no one will march there at all”

Though this song was written in 1971 it’s about the experience of a young Australian soldier in the First World War.

My intention in assigning the story to Jack was to see if today’s high school students asked, knew or cared what “are they marching for” when they see a Remembrance Day or a D-Day parade.

I assumed I knew the answer and was working myself up for a lecture to those “young people” on the price paid for freedom and how it must never be forgotten.

But it turns out they do know and care.

All of which leads me to Sunday, June 9, when the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 11 will hold a parade on Kingston Road to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day (which we know was on June 6, 1944). There’s more details on the parade, to be followed by a memorial service in St. John’s Norway Cemetery, in our story at https://beachmetro.com/2024/06/04/parade-memorial-service-to-mark-d-days-80th-anniversary-set-for-east-toronto/

One thing, though, is that the parade will be the living proof of the song’s line about the old men disappearing given that it was 80 years ago. But there will still be Legion members and other veterans marching in the June 9 parade.

I’ll be there this Sunday to show my support and remember. Will you?


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