A Grandfather’s Story – Remembrance Day on Fort William First Nation
FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – He was 15 years old.
Too young to enlist but yet he did anyway under a fake name. He did so alongside of his life long best friend.
They were trained to fight.
Prior to being shipped overseas it was discovered that he was under age, by this point he was 17 though.
The commanding officer approached the boys mother for permission as the Canadian Government had already invested time into this boy and he was ready.
With strength from her young son, the mother reluctantly said “yes”.
The boy and his friend were shipped overseas and were in a wave that stormed beaches on D Day.
The 17-year-old boy made it through the initial gunfire and grenade blasts with his battalion and upon settling in a trench he asked others where his best friend was.
A soldier pointed to a lifeless body.
In that moment, that 17-year-old boys life was changed forever.
He was sent to retrieve water for his troop while still grasping the loss of his “brother”.
As he made his way across the battlefield explosions continued to go off around him.
He dove to the ground with the hope of hiding when a voice spoke to him and told him to get up.
As he stood, he was struck in the shin with large shards of shrapnel.
Maybe it was God; maybe it was his friend, or maybe a simple coincidence.
Who or whatever it was- He was lucky- for if he hadn’t listened to that voice- that would have been the end of this young mans story.
He was transported to a tent, then a hospital and eventually shipped back to Canada, to his home and Mother.
When he returned home it was without his best friend.
A burden, a weight, a heavy heart, was carried from that day forward within this young man.
He married the love of his life and they created 11 children, 7 boys, and 4 girls.
Those children gave him over 60 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
He loved his life, his wife, his family, and his home.
But there was always that heavy weight inside that he never expressed.
And then a voice spoke to him — again— Whoever it was, they gave him the idea and courage to act on a need.
He needed a way to heal and knew that many others did as well for at the time, and for many decades, this young man and his best friend were not recognized as Canadian Soldiers or “Remembered” at the typical services that are held on November 11 along with many others that shared his heritage.
And so it began…
On November 11 1995 the first Remembrance Day Service was held on the plateau of Mt McKay, the Sacred Mountain of the area, in honour of Aboriginal Canadian Soldiers and Veterans.
Everyone is welcome but the focus is clear.
Respect & Remember
The young man passed on his 84th birthday on February 22, 2010.
His name was Frank Banning.
This November 11, 2015 commemorates the 20th anniversary of this service.