© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Dempsey Perry is one of the Three Oaks students travelling to Europe on Nov. 7 to take part in a 10-day pilgrimage. Perry and his fellow students were tasked with finding out more about a veteran, in his case his late grandfather, information that was on display during a recent veterans’ night at the Veterans Convention Centre. Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
CAPTION: Dempsey Perry is one of the Three Oaks students travelling to Europe on Nov. 7 to take part in a 10-day pilgrimage. Perry and his fellow students were tasked with finding out more about a veteran, in his case his late grandfather, information that was on display during a recent veterans’ night at the Veterans Convention Centre. Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE — It was a tribute to veterans, some loved ones and others, complete strangers, that has helped plant the seeds of remembrance among local youth.
Earlier this week, a group of Three Oaks Senior High School students, along with their teacher advisors, Dave Chisholm and Kelly Power, hosted a veterans’ night at Credit Union Place’s Veterans Convention Centre.
There, they told the stories of the sacrifices made by men and women who fought in various conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and in peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia.
The students, who are taking part in a pilgrimage to Europe in a little over a week, were tasked with finding out more about a veteran, either someone in their family or a veteran in the community.
Set up throughout the room were storyboards, each displaying the story of a different veteran told through text, photos and, in some cases, the medals they were given in recognition of their service to their country.
For Dempsey Perry, the project offered him a chance to learn about his grandfather’s service in the Korean War.
“He avoided talking about it. He was the sort of guy who tried to seem very tough but he was also the kind of guy that didn’t really want to talk about it because he felt it wasn’t something you talk about with kids,” Dempsey said of Private J.W. Leroy Perry. “I knew almost nothing about his early life. I got to learn about his childhood, his family life right up to the war.”
When his grandfather passed away in 2004 is when his family learned more about his service in Korea.
“We got his files and we just heard through the grapevine that he had served in the Battle of Little Gibraltar, which was the second largest battle in the Korean War,” said Dempsey. “Basically, his company was stationed by themselves on the hill and the North Korean soldiers came in and they called in reinforcements and the air force came in and mortared them. They were under heavy friendly fire for two and a half days.”
For Millie McKay, there was no family connection to a veteran. She ended up being partnered with local Second World War James “Jim” Winn, a man who has left a lasting impact on the teen.
“I was kind of awestruck. When he first spoke of it he was so lucid and he remembered all of it without a lapse. It was just really inspiring to be able to hear that story,” said the Grade 12 student.
Winn’s story is something that will stay with Millie for the rest of her life.
“It certainly makes you see things in a whole new light because a lot of people aren’t aware of everything that would have gone on. We don’t know what it would have been like overseas if it wasn’t for them,” said the teen.
Being able to trace Winn’s steps while in Europe is an experience Millie can’t quite get her head around, one that will be emotional and, after getting to know her veteran, more meaningful.
“I feel a connection with James. I made a copy of the photo of me and him so I can have it, so I can remember him,” she added. “I get to go over and I get to say my veteran is still alive and I am standing where he stood, that I am in his footsteps. It is going to be really amazing.”
Making those connections is why the project, one that Chisholm has been doing with his students for several years, is so important, said George Dalton, a member of the Lest We Forget committee.
“By giving them the task that Dave gives to them, it gets right into the bowels of remembrance,” said Dalton. “
Chisholm hopes that by getting to know a veteran and their stories his students will carry the torch of remembrance.
“My goal now is to make sure that I don’t forget… and that these kids never pass by a veteran without saying thank you.”