June 18th, 2024

Veterans honour courage and sacrifice on 80th anniversary of D-Day

By Lethbridge Herald on June 6, 2024.

Veterans salute during a ceremony at the Lethbridge Cenotaph on Thursday to honour the sacrifice of Canadian and Allied forces during the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Herald photo by Delon Shurtz

Delon Shurtz – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Dave Martin remembers the stories his father told him about the brave men who fought during the Second World War.

Dalton Martin was one of those men. In fact, he was among the first wave of Allied troops to storm the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, where nearly 400 Canadian soldiers were killed.

The Canadian soldiers had an idea of what they were up against before they even left Canada, and they ran drills over and over again so they’d be ready when the order came for them to leave.

“And one day they got the call,” Martin says, recalling his father’s story of D-Day. “I think it was two in the morning, and they went on the ship and when the ship left dock, they knew they were on their way. Reality sank in.”

As the ship approached the shores of France they could hear what was described as “whizzes,” but they didn’t know what it was, at first.

“Shortly after they realized that was the bullets shooting across the bow of the boat,” Martin says.

Dalton was among the first of the soldiers to hit the beach, and almost immediately a fellow Canadian near him was shot and killed. He had a few close calls himself, including one following the Allied invasion into France when he came face-to-face with a German soldier.

“One night he remembered walking down along a hedge, and on the other side, unbeknownst to him, there was a German Soldier. He came to a break in the hedge and both noticed each other, and without a word of anything they both turned around and went on their way.”

Martin, who is first vice-president of the General Stewart Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Lethbridge, was part of a ceremony Thursday at the Cenotaph downtown, which marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

“Earlier today in France…and in Ottawa and now across Alberta, ceremonies like this are being conducted to recognize the Allies invasion into France in the greatest assembly in history,” said Glenn Miller, president of the Alberta/NWT branch last post fund. “Some 14,000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach on the sixth of June, and 359 of these brave men lost their lives.”

Miller pointed out D-Day was only the beginning of more than two and a half months of hard fighting in Normandy that would eventually see more than 5,000 Canadian soldiers killed.

“But, with great courage and sacrifice, the Canadians played a key role in the Allied Victory there, and the eventual liberation of Europe during the Second World War.”

Following the ceremonies, which included the laying of wreaths and brief remarks from various officials, Miller stressed how important it is to remember D-Day and the history changing Battle of Normandy.

“It’s important that community members and businesses support remembrance, not just on Remembrance Day but throughout the year. Each person can do their own act of remembrance in many different ways.”

Remembering D-Day and the subsequent battles has significant meaning for Martin and his family, particularly because of his father’s involvement.

“It has special meaning for us that we can remember the sacrifice that he did as a young boy, leaving Canada, leaving his family, and joining the Canadian government and the Allies to fight the war,” Martin said. “He’s had lasting effects on us, our respect for what he have and our freedom.”

Martin said ceremonies such as those held on Remembrance Day each year and on the anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, are needed to honour veterans and help the younger generations remember the sacrifices.

“If we fail to maintain events like this, then they will be lost and forgotten from the generations to come. It’s our duty, as a Legion, to maintain these events and carry on with them and not forget the people who sacrificed their lives.”

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