My Defining Canadian Moment is:

The day my son understood the importance of Canadian soldiers

By: Carolyn Vasco, Cambridge, Ontario

I will remember Saturday, November 11th, 2006 always, not so much for the Remembrance Day Ceremony, but for what unfolded immediately after.

The evening prior had impressed our twelve-year old son as we had driven by the local cenotaph at a very late hour and witnessed the young cadets standing at attention. I explained the twenty-four hour vigil, commenting on their commitment to honour those who’d served our country. “But it’s so cold!” our son exclaimed.

My son looked thoughtful, then began to dig into his pocket. He withdrew his wallet, and dumped the collection of loonies, quarters, nickels and dimes on to the table. “I’m buying his lunch!” he declared.

We reminded him of the wretched conditions our soldiers endured throughout every war they’d fought in. He had shuddered as he shoved himself deeper into his own jacket, lost in thought.

Remembrance Day morning was damp, cold, and miserable as my husband, our son and I watched the annual event. We shivered as we watched the many elderly soldiers march towards the cenotaph, and wondered what horrific memories they held behind their solemn masks.

The bagpipes droned, and as the mist turned into large steady drops of rain, we marveled that these now frail former servicemen and women maintained their stiff stance. One gentleman in particular caught our attention as he sat erect, unflinching in his wheelchair, until the horn began its mournful wail, when his gloved hand swept across his face.

We silently wondered if it was tears or raindrops he was brushing away.

Following the ceremony, we joined my husband’s parents to take them for lunch. As we were seated at the restaurant, we saw a veteran sitting with his wife. “I think war vets should eat free on Remembrance Day,” I commented.

My son looked thoughtful, then began to dig into his pocket. He withdrew his wallet, and dumped the collection of loonies, quarters, nickels and dimes on to the table. “I’m buying his lunch!” he declared. “Do you think I have enough?” he asked worriedly. “You have enough, believe me,” I answered, knowing we would ensure he did.

His grandparents looked flabbergasted, and when our server came to our table, we asked if he could advise us how much the gentleman’s lunch would amount to. Our waiter, whose nametag identified him as “Michael” looked puzzled. “Which gentleman?” he asked.

“The war veteran in his suit, with his medals on his chest, sitting across the room with the lady,” we advised.

Michael saw him and smiled. “Do you know him?” he queried.

”No”, we admitted, “Not at all.” “But he’s a war veteran and I want to say thank you,” my son added. Now it was Michael’s turn to look thunderstruck. He promised to find out how much the lunch bill would be, and returned moments later, grinning ear to ear.

He advised us of the amount and watched as our son carefully counted out his change, ignoring our assurances that he had enough. Once he was certain, he proudly – and with relief – stated that he could indeed pay for this stranger’s lunch. Michael asked if our son would like to go over to introduce himself and tell this veteran of his generous gesture, which he quickly refused, suddenly shy and embarrassed. “At least let me tell him your name!” Michael implored. “It’s Jordan,” I replied.

The gentleman was seated with his back to us, so we quietly went on with our lunch, each of us silently bursting with pride over Jordan’s actions. We tried not to stare as our waiter went to his table, a large grin on his face, obviously pleased to be a part of this goodwill gesture. We smiled as his wife nodded over to us, but we were determined not to make a fuss to avoid embarrassing anyone.

Before making their exit, the gentleman made his way to the table. He stretched out his hand toward my husband, “Jordan, I want to thank you sincerely – this has never in my lifetime happened to me before,” he said. He introduced himself, stating that he served aboard the HMS Saskatchewan in the 1940’s. My husband grasped his hand, but advised him that he was not Jordan, and turned to our son.

The veteran’s eyes widened in surprise, and after a moment reached for his hand. “How old are you, son?” Jordan answered, “Twelve, sir. And thank you for serving in the war for us,” Jordan said solemnly. The man looked thoughtful for a moment, warmly expressing his appreciation before he became too choked up to speak.

His wife stopped by our table to advise us that this lunch was something neither of them would ever forget. We agreed. Our waiter stood by, smiling broadly, before advising that he was so proud, he was buying our son’s lunch!

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow it began raining inside that restaurant, because there were a lot of fat droplets of rain being wiped off of everyone’s cheeks that afternoon, on Remembrance Day 2006.

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respond to this story

  • Jane Flood

    Wonderful story and this should happen more often. We lived in Missouri for four years, where my husband was the Canadian liaison officer at a large Army training base. Each year we attended the Veterans Day parade in the nearby town and he wore his military uniform, which does stand out enough from the U.S. “parade dress” uniform. We always went out for lunch afterwards at a popular restaurant and one year, halfway through the meal, a civilian man came over to thank my husband for his service to the country and paid the bill for our family of four! We’d never experienced this and were quite taken aback – and I worried a bit about whether or not the fellow realized he wasn’t an American serviceman. Your son did a fine thing that day and thank you for the reminder for us to do the same for a Veteran, wherever he or she may have served.

  • Telisa

    I actually had to stop reading half way through to wipe my eyes. Your son is a fantastic young man! I came across your story as I was searching for my own (I searched Cadets, which mine is also tagged with). Please tell Jordan thank you, from someone who has never met him, for being so kind and generous. Too many young people don’t respect our elderly like they should be.

    ~Telisa

  • Lilliana Mattina

    I think this story is extreamly touching and well written ! Congratulations to Carolyn for sharing such a wonderful and touching story !

  • Kathy Wallace

    Very touching – always nice to hear/see the true generosity and love of others.  We should all remember our Military, and pass it forward when we can – I don’t even like playing those paint ball games – I can’t imagine what they go through.

  • Psingleton

    Wow, Jordan I am so not surprised to read this, what an awesome young man you are, I am so grateful that your parents have instilled such wonderful traits in your character.  I am honoured to know you.

  • Lucien Alexandre Marion

    This is one of the most beautiful and touching story that I have ever read. Such beautiful values and  such great Nobility from this young adolescent heart and such beautiful hearted father and mother. Most Beautiful. Thank you-Merci for sharing this story with all of us.   Lucien Alexandre Marion

  • Carpediem2007

    This story should be given to every refugee or immigrant moving here and tell them they must respect Canada and if need be they need to defend Canada …

  • Stevenbishop

    As November 11, is just around the corner, I begin think of my father and his Service in the Korean War. Growing  up  on MIlitary bases, Remembrance Day was very speical and was proudly Celebrated. It was not until, I  went to Civlian schools,  did  I see at first hand that this day seemed to be just another ordinary day. I am now much older .My, how times have changed. Jordan and his parents are a true testimonial of that. Our soldiers present and past are now getting the recognition they so well deserve, but never demanded. The crowds at Remberance Day Celebrations are increasing year by year. This story has touched me very deply. I hope it will inspire everyone to due a good deed. When they see a Veteran, stop shake their and and thank them. It will mean more to them than we will ever know. Thank you for sharing this wonderf story.

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