Veterans share their stories in a new book from London’s Parkwood Institute

Hugh Neily, 95, shared his story about surviving D-day in the new book. Jaclyn Carbone / 980 CFPL

Some were accountants, others were soldiers, but regardless of their position, these veterans have a story to tell.

In a new book from the Veteran Care program at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute, I Remember — Veterans’ Memoirs, 27 veterans share their stories of life, love and loss.

“I’d never taken on a project like this before, so I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but I just came up with some questions and started my interviews,” said Ann Pigott, an art instructor in Veteran Arts.

“It was such a delight to have the opportunity to sit down with somebody and ask them about their life,” said Pigott who was also the lead for the project.

READ MORE: ‘I’m never sure I belong here’: As their numbers dwindle, older vets honour fallen friends

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About a dozen of the veterans were involved in a book signing at Parkwood Institute, Wednesday. Sitting in a semi-circle of tables, the veterans spoke with many people eager to hear their stories — and, of course, get a signed book.

Hugh Neily was born in Spa Springs, N.S. in 1922. When the British asked the Canadians for help in the Second World War, Neilly was sent over.

“Several of us were in the invasion on D-Day. I was one of them. We landed on Sword Beach first thing in the morning. I survived that. I lost several of my men, but at the end of about two weeks I was quite badly wounded, so that was the end of the war for me,” said Neilly.

“I grew up. I went in as a boy, came out as a man. That happened to most of us,” he said.

Sonia Kaipainen signs a book for an eager fan at Wednesday book signing at Parkwood Institute. Jaclyn Carbone / 980 CFPL

Ruth Brooks, 94, was stationed in Toronto and Newfoundland as a switchboard operator during the Second World War.

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“The most exciting thing that happened to us was when Roosevelt died, and everybody in the base picked up their phone to tell everybody else. So there was a switchboard just full of lights,” said Brooks.

While some of the veterans featured in the book have since passed away, Pigott is glad she was able to capture their stories before they left us.

READ MORE: The remarkable life of a 99-year-old veteran

“It was really a very intimate situation for a lot of the veterans to be telling me. Things that maybe they hadn’t thought about, or no one else had asked them about for many years, if ever,” she said.

“There was some really touching moments in there, some really funny moments,” she said.

This isn’t the first time the Veterans Care program has released a book. Three similar books were released in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since last year was the 75 year anniversary of Veterans Arts at the Parkwood Institute, they decided to do something special, and collect veteran stories once again.

The books are available at Parkwood Institute Main Building in the two gift shops and in the Veterans Arts studio for $20.

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Proceeds from the books go to the Veterans Arts program at Parkwood Institute.

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