Saskatchewan filmmaker captures veterans’ stories before they are lost forever

Poppies placed on the Korean War Veterans Memorial during a Remembrance Day ceremony. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Remembrance Day is a time to honour and remember those who have served and those who never made it home.

Every year, more and more veterans are lost as we inch further away from World War One and Two. And with more veterans passing away, society is at risk of losing their stories forever.

One Saskatoon man is trying to prevent this by creating films.

Anthony Towstego has been producing and directing documentaries about veterans in Canada for over twenty years.

Global News sat down with Anthony Towstego to talk about the importance of capturing these memories before they are lost forever.

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Q: Anthony the series is called ‘Canada Remembers Our Heroes’ … Tell us how you document each veteran’s story?

A: “This started more than 20 years ago during the [Canadian] International Air Show in Saskatoon where we welcome veterans to sit down and share their stories. Some say yes and some say no and many of them haven’t even shared them with their families. But when they do share them with us, we just let them talk. One of the main questions we ask is to share with us your best and worst memories. And sometimes there’s a lot of good memories but also some challenges that are really tough memories.”

Q: How did you get started in producing these veterans’ stories and what inspired you to take this on?

A: “As a little guy, I’d listen to my uncle’s stories. He came back from Korea in 1952 and I grew up hearing his stories and later in life I became a filmmaker. And it was really that that inspired me and my uncle’s service was just a privilege to document. Every veteran I’ve ever documented is truly a privilege to document and to preserve their stories of service and sacrifice.”

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Q: You’ve interviewed over 300 veterans over the years. Can you tell us some of the personal stories that really stand out in your memory?

A: “We’ve got a veteran in Saskatoon here who just hit 100 years old in August, Reg Harrison, and he was RCAF in Second World War. He did 19 flight missions, even over D-Day and he survived four crashes. They actually have a nickname for him called Crash Harrison. That gentleman really stuck with me… he actually ended up in a burn unit in Europe and survived that. He was ready to sign up for another flight, but they said four was enough.

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All the veterans I met in some way left their mark on me. All of it is really about service and sacrifice. They all share that common bond.”

(questions and answers have been condensed for clarity)

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon Veterans honoured at Canada’s largest indoor Remembrance Day service'
Saskatoon Veterans honoured at Canada’s largest indoor Remembrance Day service

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