Two years after the war finally came to an end, the brigade held its first ever reunion. Veterans and families, dignitaries and the public numbering in the thousands attended. At the unveiling of a massive memorial, a Canadian and an American woman, both having lost sons with the Brigade, had the honour of unveiling the important structure that to this day reminds the world of the price these men and their families paid, and continue to pay, for our freedom. The Canadian woman selected was Maurice's mother May.
Many years later May's grand-daughter, Marie Mitchell, walked in not only her grandmother's footsteps, but also in those of her later uncle, Maurice de Macedo.
The image at the right shows Marie Mitchell at the peak of the mountain that Maurice died on. She proudly clutches a picture of her uncle in hand. On her left is tour guide John Hart who also holds a photo of one of the veterans. At their far left is an actual veteran of the very battle... Mr. Eugene Gutierrez Jr., from Texas, who holds a picture of himself back in war days.
Marie's Uncle Maurice rests in a marked grave. Marie told me with considerable emotion that there were many students at the cemetery who had traveled from Ottawa and elsewhere on their own tour and each had been assigned a few veterans to research. They were at the cemetery to find "their veterans" graves while Marie was doing the same thing. She broke down when telling me that she was wondering if any one of these youth was research her Maurice.
When she found the grave, she saw a student placing a poppy. He indeed was researching Maurice, and since that day the student Jacob Martin, and Marie have kept in touch and continue to share further information about the late Sergeant. She and Jacob are shown above, standing behind Maurice's grave marker. To the right is the massive memorial to those with unknown graves.
Marie was the only one of the 70 on tour who lost a relative at la Difensa and was asked to lay a wreath for those lost and does so at the memorial, shown in the bottom right image above.
A past post of grandmother May's unveiling contained the above image, complete with a news article of the day.
While the photo has lost some of its clearness in publishing, Marie is shown pointed at the name of her Uncle Maurice, who's surname is mispelled. Marie did not realize something till I saw the image and did some further research. While only a small portion of the entire cenotaph, this portion has names of Canadians listed from PEI, NB, Ont, Man, Sask, Alta and BC. There are at least 26 Canadians enscribed on this portion of the monument.
Events took place at a number of venues including at the Canadian Embassy which I was privileged to visit during my recent research trip to Gettysburg and the DC area.
At above left the Canadian embassy hosted all 40 vets, both US and Canadian, at a special ceremony wherein each was presented with a copy of THE Congressional Gold Medal that the force would later in the program, receive and cherish. Each vet got a bronze medal, an exact duplicate, except not in gold, and also made by the US mint. At the right officials presented and congratulate two of the vets representing the entire brigade. The fellow on the left should look familiar. He is Texan Eugene Gutierrez who sat atop Mount la Difensa with Marie shown in the top picture of this blog. Representing Canada at that same podium was brigade veteran Charles Mann from Kincardine Ontario. Canadian flags are not in the picture unfortunately, but be assured they were displayed farther along on the platform.
While in DC Marie and many of the other veterans and families ordered there own copies of the medal from the US Mint.
Not long ago Marie received her medal and most graciously showed me the medal a few days back on the occassion of yet another trip to honor this brigade and the brave men who fought so valiantely and at such increfbly high costs.
This next trip was in joining me and another military researcher as we all ventured north up the Vancouver Island to Courtenay were Richard Hilton lives.
Richard, the subject of many blogs here, is 99 years old and the oldest Canadian veteran of the brigade. For some time it was thought, in error, that he was the oldest of the American vets as well but a vet in California is in his 101st year of life.
Assisting him in making the presentation was a 93 year old veteran by the name of James "Stocky" Edwards shown at far right, above. Lt Colonel Edwards was a highly medaled air ace. At the far left of his most impressive medal group, difficult to see above, is the Order of Canada. Wing Commander Edwards was a combat air fighter in WWll and was the top air ace in the Western Desert Campaign. To his credit are no less than 19 victories, 2 shared, 6 probable, 17 damaged and 12 craft destroyed on the ground.
While several dignitaries took to the podium to praise Richard and the brigade, some could not attend. One of these was a represenative from the US Counsulate General Office at Vancouver BC. At my suggetion, the organizer at Courteney requested I contact the embassy for representation. I did so but it was learned schedules would not allow attendance. A very nice letter of congratulations was forwarded to me to take to Courtenay. It was then decided that I would not be allowed to read the letter and that it would fall to the hands of the area Member of Parliament. He later discovered he could not attend and so it was read by a office staffer. I stood by and listened.
As do I to the next blog.