Watch above: A local documentarian – concerned that first-hand memories of D-Day could disappear forever – is helping keep them intact. Laurel Gregory explains.
EDMONTON – With thousands of Canada’s veterans aging, memories of poignant events like D-Day are fading or disappearing altogether. But with the help of a local documentary maker, families are able to hold on to the most valuable parts of their loved ones: their stories.
When Canadian troops stormed Juno Beach, risking their lives to free Europe, a 21-year-old Alberta farmer named Ernie Wood was right there with them.
Seventy years have passed, but Wood’s memories are so powerful that when he gets sick the nightmares return.
“I lived the blooming war back all over again during the nights. I thought I was going to go nuts but I finally got over it.”
The 91-year-old was a medic with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. On June 6, 1944, he ran on to Juno Beach with a stretcher in one hand and a revolver in the other. His job was to patch up injured soldiers and find a safe place for them to recover.
“We didn’t have time to get scared. The racket and the noise and everything that was there — it was tremendous. The big ships were all firing guns off into the landscape too.”
Wood remembers the timeline of D-Day in remarkable detail. But as he grows older, he likely won’t recollect the events in the same way he does now.
Recognizing that reality, family friend Leo Seguin hired a local filmmaker to capture the veteran’s story.
“I’ve had clients that have been part of the Great Escape, or I had one gentleman who escaped from a prisoner of war camp. But with Alzheimers or dementia creeping in, they can’t remember how they escaped from the camp or how everything occurred,” said Nicole Beart, who is the force behind memorycatcher.ca.
“It’s not just the timeline in terms of the passing of the veterans. It’s recording those memories while their memories are still sharp.”
“I think this is so important to record things like this so we don’t forget,” Seguin added. “Because it’s an incredible donation they gave. They never failed us, so we shouldn’t fail them.”
WATCH: Gord Steinke speaks with MP Laurie Hawn about the 7th anniversary of D-Day
For more D-Day coverage, click here.
With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News