Every November, Canadians remember and thank our war veterans for their heroic service.
At Sunnybrook -- home to the country's largest veterans centre -- 30,000 flags will be planted in the ground for Remembrance Day. It's a campaign known as Operation Raise a Flag, and it's an opportunity for Canadians to show their appreciation for our country's veterans.
Proceeds from the campaign will go towards the hospital's Veterans Grant a Wish Program. To date, some of the many wishes granted have included special outings with family, trips, and tickets to sporting events.
One of the 475 veterans living at Sunnybrook shares her story:
"I really felt that we were threatened in a roundabout way. We had to help Britain and I felt that it was my duty to do all that I could," says Mary Jarvis, who served with the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) during World War II.
Mary enlisted in 1942 in Toronto and served for over three years. After completing four weeks of basic training, she received additional training as a vehicle driver. For the first years of her service, she was based in Ottawa, providing transport services to the Canadian Armed Forces. At all hours of the day, Mary delivered mail to the brigades and, when necessary, army personnel to the airfield.
In early 1945, Mary was reposted to Farnbough, south of London, England. "When we signed up, we didn't know we were going overseas," she says. "My main objective was to do what I could to help the Canadian effort here at home. Going overseas was a bonus. While we were never in direct combat, we always had to be on high alert for enemy bombers."
While overseas, Mary drove ambulances and modified jeeps, transporting the wounded.
"I remember making trip, after trip, after trip to the coast to pick up wounded Canadian soldiers returning from France," she says. "To avoid detection by enemy aircraft, we'd go out under the cover of darkness. Our convoys consisted of two or three vehicles depending on the number of wounded."
In Canada, they were trained to drive using headlights, but in Britain, they couldn't turn them on because they were in total blackout.
"When we went out on convoy, there was just a little light on the left hand side of the lead vehicle -- usually a motorcycle," she says. "We followed that tiny red light with our lives. It was the same going back, except that we now had up to four wounded strapped to stretchers which were stacked two to a side, hanging off either side of our vehicles."
"It was sad, but it was also a good time in my life. The one thing that stands out for me is the camaraderie, the close bonds that were developed with living and working so closely together. We were all kids, with very little life experience. You could say we grew up together."
Operation Raise a Flag
With your support, 30,000 flags will be planted outside Canada's largest veterans centre for Remembrance Day. Donations will support the Sunnybrook Veterans Grant a Wish program. Learn more and donate: raiseaflag.ca
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