“Time to Remember”

News Article / November 9, 2017

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By Honorary Colonel Dan Hennessey

Video memory connects youth with very special great-grandfather.

In 2008, I was a new member of Branch 24 of the Royal Canadian Legion, located in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and sitting alongside some great folks.

I didn’t know many of them personally but, being a student of history, as I looked at the service medals many wore proudly on their Legion uniforms, I knew they were very special and had experienced things most of us would never understand.

That evening started my obsession with these veterans.

A local artist was there to present the branch with a beautiful piece of art work, part of a collection called “Gilding of the Cross”. This particular piece was a white wooden cross, symbolic of those marking the graves of so many sacrificed in battle. A beautiful red velvet poppy wound its way from the base to the top. The artist explained the meaning of her artwork and asked if anyone in attendance had been involved with the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944. I was amazed at how many hands went up around me, and immediately felt I was sitting amongst military royalty. I had to force myself to stop staring, and it was at that point I had an idea.

I wondered if these amazing men and women might share some of their memories on video, so others could hear about their experiences. The next day, I contacted the branch and pitched the idea to the executive, asking if there was a way I could get a contact list of members who had served in the Second World War.

The executive agreed it was a great time to do this, as many veterans were in their early 80s or 90s. With the contact list in hand, I began making calls to perfect strangers, asking if they would agree to speak with me. Eighteen veterans also thought the time right to talk to this “new guy” at the branch and, so, the “Time to Remember” video project was born.

After several weeks of interviews, talented videographer Tim Reeves-Horton took the video interviews and began the grueling task of editing. I wanted my questions taken out, and had asked the veterans to bring in photos of themselves from the war years that would be intertwined on the screen as they spoke. Editing resulted in both a full-length version of all the interviews, and a shortened vignette of each under different headings.

I was easily able to convince the manager of the movie theatre in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, we should have a special launch, and make each of the veterans feel like Hollywood actors as they saw themselves on the “big screen.” Two hundred fifty invited guests were ushered into the theatre lobby to the sound of wartime music, performed by the Bridgewater Fire Department Band and eventually made their way to the screening over a red carpet. This took place on the Monday during Veterans’ Week leading up to Remembrance Day on November 11. From Tuesday to Friday, the South Shore Regional School Board bussed more than 2,000 students to the theatre so they, too, would see the video and have the opportunity to interact with guest veterans seen on the screen. It truly was a magical week.

Since completing the project more than eight years ago, I have continued to take the video to service groups, community groups, Army, Navy and Air Cadet Corps; and, always, to the Grade 5 class at Newcombville Elementary School. There, the Grade 5 class organizes the school’s Remembrance ceremony each year, and the teacher wants them to think about those men and women who stepped up for them so many years before.

This year, 2017, was one I had been waiting for. On November 6, when I walked into Mrs. Munro’s Grade 5 classroom, there was a very special young man there who watched the video with great interest.

Aiden Campbell is 10 years old, and just happens to be the great-grandson of Herbert Eagle, one of the veterans who took part in the original video project. Mr. Eagle passed away in April 2011, when Aiden just a little over age three. When his mom asks him about his great-grandfather, he really doesn’t remember much.

Mr. Eagle was a cook in the lumber camps before the Second World War and when he joined he was not the typical army recruit: 31 years of age and married with two children. His superiors quickly decided he was not going to be on the front lines, but would serve the cause as a driver. He served through England and, eventually, made it through Belgium, France and Germany driving, as he said, “just about anything that had wheels”. Mr. Eagle fondly remembered being on guard duty on Victory in Europe (VE) Day outside of London, where he could hear the huge celebratory crowds. He remained in Europe and served with the Army of Occupation before returning to Canada and Nova Scotia’s South Shore

As the video began this year at Newcombville, young Aiden had a chance most great-grandchildren never get: to hear his great-grandfather speak in his own words, recounting his memories. My hope is that Campbell is as proud of his great-grandfather as the many people who knew and loved Mr. Eagle. I also hope Aiden will cherish this memory and that someday, perhaps, he will children of his own and take some time to tell them a story about this man that touched so many hearts.

Honorary Colonel Hennessey is honorary colonel of 14 Construction Engineering Squadron, which is a unit of 14 Wing Greenwood but located in Bridgewater. He is a resident of Newcombville, Nova Scotia.

 

Extracts from the obituary of Herbert “Bert” John Eagle

Herbert "Bert" John Eagle 96, of Newcombville passed away Thursday, 28 April 2011 in the South Shore Regional Hospital, Bridgewater. Born in Halifax on May 19, 1914, he was the son of the late Charles H. and Violet E. (Reed) Eagle . . . He joined the Army in September 4, 1944. He went overseas with the Service Corps in early March of 1945 and was later assigned to Ordnance Corps as a light and heavy truck driver. He returned to Canada in late June of 1946 and was discharged to civilian life in late August of 1946. Upon returning home [he] started a mixed farming operation in 1946 with a few cows, hens and hogs. In 1948 he obtained a rural mail contract . . . and continued mail delivery for thirty two years, retiring in 1980. In the fifties the farm changed from a mixed farming operation to dairy farming only. In 1980 Herbert Eagle Sr. retired from active farming. Today his herd has grown with ninety head of registered purebred Holsteins, and a milking herd of fifty with the farm being operated by his son Herbie Jr. and grandson Kevin. Bert worked with many farm and community organizations; he was a member of Newcombville District Fire Department for nineteen years, two years as Fire Chief. He served seven years as Secretary-Treasurer for Lunenburg County Federation of Agriculture and in 1986 was presented with a Life Membership. He was a Director and Past President Nova Scotia Branch Holstein Canada, and also an Honorary Member of the Nova Scotia Federation Agriculture Senate Club. He joined Branch 24 of the Royal Canadian Legion in the 50’s and rejoined Branch 24 in 1974 and was awarded a life member in 1997. He was a Director of the South Shore Exhibition having served for over thirty-one years as Director, Secretary, Vice-President and President . . .

To read the full obituary, please visit www.sweenysfuneralhome.com (in English)

 

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