Monday morning, June 15, 1939. The sun was just rising above the horizon and Jacob Smith, a new recruit in the Canadian Armed Forces, knew that this would be an important day.
He slowly got out of bed, washed his face and went downstairs to the kitchen to get some breakfast. His mother was waiting for him when he got there. She looked at him with sorrowful eyes and for a moment, she looked as if a dark shadow had overcome her soul.
Jacob moved toward his mother, and in a soft voice said, "Don't worry Mother, I'll be all right." He was trying to comfort her the best he could for he would be leaving in a couple of hours to help Canada defend the Netherlands against the German invasion.
The kind woman's only response was, "Please, please tell me you won't do something careless and get yourself hurt or . . . " "I won't, Mother," Jacob said calmly. "Now I need to go get my uniform on and pack my duffel bag. The ship will be leaving in about an hour and I need to get ready." Jacob grabbed a piece of bread and an apple and headed back to his bedroom.
About ten minutes later, Jacob came back downstairs to say good-bye to his mother and father. They begged him not to go, but they couldn't persuade him to stay.
As the small family was finishing up their farewells, good wishes and requests for Jacob to come back home safe and sound, they heard a noise. It sounded like thunder; but when Jacob's mother and father went to the door they saw a parade of green marching down the street. It was the soldiers, new recruits and field doctors marching toward the harbor where they would board their ships and go off to join the war.
Jacob said his final farewell and went out to join his comrades. As he fell into step and got in line with the rest of the soldiers, he looked back and saw the sad faces of his parents, but he reassured himself that he would see them again when everything was over.
When Jacob and his troop finally reached the harbor, all he could see were ships and soldiers. In a way this amazed Jacob, but in another way this sent a shiver of fear right down his spine because of the thought that he may never see this harbor or this town ever again.
The ship weighed anchor and finally Jacob was on his way, off to a strange land where he would fight for his freedom and help the Dutch people gain their freedom. Jacob looked out of the porthole. For about a mile all he could see was sky, sea and dozens of ships, all heading for the same destination.
The entire trip across the ocean took about two days and on Thursday, the fleet landed on the shores of Europe. Immediately after the ships reached land, soldiers, tanks, trucks and many other army artillery carriers poured out from the vast number of vessels. It was an amazing sight!
It was a long walk to the base camp where the reinforcements would be staying. When Jacob finally reached camp, he started to think about what would happen in the days to come. Would the invasion be stopped so that he can go home or would he be severely injured and die a painful, grizzly death? For now, Jacob couldn't tell.
The next morning, Jacob awoke to the sound of a trumpet playing loud and clear throughout the entire camp. Jacob welcomed the sound with open arms because it was so lively, but he also cursed it because he wasn't used to being awakened in such a manner as this.
About half an hour later, all of the soldiers formed up for the role call. All together, there were over eight thousand men and women there, all fighting for the same purpose.
Saturday, June 20. Today would be the Canadian Army's first attempt to drive back the Germans. Through the entire afternoon and part of the evening, Jacob and his comrades fought valiantly against the German armies. As he fought, all that Jacob could see was smoke, explosions, planes and dozens of mangled bodies strewn about the battle field.
Events and battles carried on like this for days and even though the Germans were getting driven back, the numbers of people showing up for the role call each morning kept getting smaller and smaller. One day it would be four hundred and then the next day it would be around two hundred and fifty.
Wednesday, June 28. Jacob was growing weary and on this morning he woke up to the sound of gunfire. The armies of Canada and the United States went out again to stop the advancing Germans.
As Jacob's troop neared enemy territory, the small platoon was ambushed by a group of German soldiers. The group fought bravely, but to no avail. Most men were either killed or taken prisoner.
Jacob managed to escape but a bayonet had torn open his leg and it was bleeding severely. Using an old branch as a crutch, Jacob managed to hobble about five miles back to familiar territory. However, the young lad was very weak from loss of blood and when a field hospital was in sight, he collapsed.
Jacob just lay there, occasionally looking up at the sky, then looking at the gaping wound in his leg, red blood still coming from the open flesh. He took one more look to the sky and then his eyes closed and he lay there, motionless. It was like the candle flame of his soul had been extinguished by the evil breath of war.
This brave nineteen year old boy was just one of the many other people who gave up their lives in the Second World War to help stop the Germans, who were eventually defeated. Today, many of Jacob's comrades and close friends remember him dearly, just like the many other young Canadians and War Veterans who remember those who died in the wars on this special day called Remembrance Day.