Today?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Globe and Mail offered an article regarding the recognition of Canadian troops in liberating Ortona, Italy, from the grip of Nazi forces in 1943. Hitler has fortified Ortona to be their last stronghold in Italy.
However, it wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t the celebration that was of interest to me. Nor was it contemplating what happened over 60 years ago. What interested me was the photo on the front page and its caption.
It was a photo of Canadian veteran Smoky Smith getting a peck on the cheek from an Italian school girl. The caption stated that Smoky Smith is the last surviving Victoria Cross winner.
On 21 October 1944, Private Ernest “Smoky” Smith single-handedly defeated a German counter-attack on the Savio River bridgehead in Italy, including two tanks and roughly 60 German soldiers. Seven weeks later, Smoky was awarded the Victoria Cross. The medal normally is awarded for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Smoky is just over 90 years old. Only God knows how much time he has left. But his efforts and his presence in this world gives us a real tie to the Second World War. Once he is gone, his entire life and the sacrifices he made will be but memories, easily forgotten.
My great-great-grandfather?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s brother, John Loskot, fought in World War One. He died in battle as a Private in the Fifth Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment). Two hundred forty soldiers and officers from the Fifth Battalion died that day (28 April 1917) under heavy German shelling that lasted nearly 24 hours, north of Arleux, France.
Maybe it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s this familial tie to World War One that made Smoky?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s by-line pop out. Either way, I suppose death is inevitable and real life heroes like Smoky (He received the Order of Canada in 1995) eventually pass on into the history books.
Maybe this year, I will actually participate in the Remembrance Day programmes.