Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thank You

From Yahoo News

JOHN WARD Thu Nov 10, 4:40 PM ET
OTTAWA (CP) - Pipers, flags, posters, cheers and applause greeted about 200 veterans as they arrived by train on Thursday for the Remembrance Day memorial.

A crowd of about 300 people - teens, toddlers, school kids and ordinary folk - was on hand as the vets, almost all in their 80s, pulled in after a 24-hour trip from Halifax. Some found the greeting overwhelming.
"I can't believe it, to see all the people," said Stuart Macdonald of Cape Breton as he shook hands with well-wishers.
He said the train had been cheered along all the way from Halifax.
"You wouldn't believe all the people along the route, hundreds and hundreds."
"It's wonderful," said Bill Arnold of Halifax. "It couldn't have been better. It's far better than we expected."
Macdonald said it was nothing like the lonesome train trip that brought him home after his return from overseas in 1945. "I came back off the ship in the evening, got on the train to my home in Cape Breton and I never saw nobody. This is fantastic. After sixty years, it's unreal."
Arnold said the modern train was a far cry from the creaky carriages which hauled him and his comrades from the Lorne Scots Regiment from their Ontario homes to a troopship more than six decades ago.
"You wouldn't believe the troop train I came down to Halifax in," he chuckled. "It was from the turn of the century; wood burning stoves, kerosene lamps.
"And the damn thing, you could walk faster. It took three days and two nights to get to Halifax."
Poppies and flags were everywhere as the vets shuffled through the clapping crowd. There were posters saying, "Thank you vets" and "We love you."
The old soldiers, some in the faded wool khaki uniforms they wore 60 years ago, paused here and there to shake hands with embarrassed teens or to exchange words with a puzzled toddler.
Veterans Affairs Minister Albina Gaurnieri greeted the vets and the 200 family members and supporters who accompanied them on the trip.
The welcome included Mounties, local police, firemen, paramedics and serving soldiers.
Harold Henshaw, a veteran of New Brunswick's North Shore Regiment, was awed by the reception.
"It makes us feel wonderful," he said. "Now, we've had our 15 minutes of fame."
Henshaw said he and his wartime pal Norm Kirby have much to celebrate. The two were riding together on a tank when it was hit by a German shell.
"The Germans blew it all to hell, but we both are here," he said. "We lost a bit of skin on the deal but we're still here. We're both 80, but we're here."
The crowd included three-year-old Aidan Murray and his grandfather, Arnie Murray.
The little boy watched with a serious face as the veterans passed.
"I don't know if he understands, but we tell him about the soldiers," said his grandfather, who spent 35 years in the military himself.
Sheila Castledine of Ottawa said she had to be part of the welcome.
"I couldn't imagine not being here," she said. "These people are heroes and everyone who can be here, should be here."
She said she was glad to see so many young people.
"You can read about it in a book but to come to something like this speaks volumes."
The 33-car train was the idea of two Via Rail employees looking for a way to mark the Year of the Veteran.
It was originally supposed to be for Halifax-area vets, but it mushroomed and ended up picking up vets in New Brunswick as well.
Via offered a deep discount, charging the vets $225 with tax - less than half the usual fare.
For many of those aboard, it marked their first opportunity to take part in the national Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Cliff Johnston of Woodstock, N.B.


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