Tom Long, 2018
You are strolling along 1920 Street and a uniformed veteran approaches you with a pamphlet. “Will you support the Calgary Declaration? Will you support giving the veterans their due?” he asks you earnestly.
You get to the front of the line-up and finally come face-to-face with the Lance Corporal. “Name and rank?” He asks first, but seeing you hesitate, he takes a look at your outfit. “Oh, Captain!” He gives a crisp salute. “I didn’t recognize you! Welcome home! We’ll have you demobilized in no time. Help me fill out this form, then take it with you. It’s been a tough few years but the only worthwhile road is the one that leads to Jasper Ave, isn’t that right?”
“Take a rifle, Private!” The soldier barks, handing you a hand-carved Lee Enfield. “Today we’re going to drill you Militia-types in how a real trench raid goes.” As you get into line beside the other children, he sends another over to the Nursing Sister. “If you don’t want to go over the top, you can be a stretcher-bearer. It’s going to be a game, but the lessons are very real.”
These are all real interactions you may have had, or could have in the future, if you come across our Returned Soldier on 1920 Street.
Ten years ago, with the 100 year anniversary of the First World War approaching, Fort Edmonton Park got to work. We purchased uniforms for the Returned Soldier (and his counterpart, the Nursing Sister), did research, wrote programs, and even made a film.
Every year we put an interpreter in the challenging and rewarding role of a First World War veteran. The interpreter visits museums, reads articles, memorizes facts, but most of all prepares himself to tackle some of the most serious themes and stories in Edmonton’s past. It is a great honour and a great responsibility to be chosen to connect visitors with the horrors, the glories, the tragedies, and victories of the Great War and its aftermath.
You’ll get a peek at the Métis Veteran, this Sunday, November 11th, at the Legislature grounds when Fort Edmonton Park joins the Armistice 100 commemoration.
What will you ask when you meet the Returned Soldier next? Why he joined? What it was like to come home? What is the Calgary Declaration and will it work?
Maybe you could tell him your family’s story. Did one of your ancestors go off to fight? Did one of them choose to conscientiously object?
Just be sure to tell him that you will remember.
Our Favourite Book:
- Desmond Morton and Glenn Wright. Winning the Second Battle: Canadian Veterans the Return to Civilian Life, 1915-1930. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.
Our Favourite Movie:
- Passchendaele (film 2008)