It began by attending the short service at Royal Oak Burial Park and Crematorium in Saanich where quite a few veterans are at rest with family and fellow veterans. Comm ander Roland Bourke, VC, DSO is also there as readers will know. As our thousands of other deceased members of our communities and beyond.
This year members of the local naval reserves, HMCS Malahat, and Bourke family gathered for a quick service before the service men and women headed off to the larger and more formal events at Sidney.
These reservists have been attending at Royal Oak pre Sydney duties for several years. And it is most worthy of note that each year there are more men and women on parade than the year past. It seems that their pride and respect for the late Rowland Bourke also increases each year.
About 250 men and women in uniform from several branches of the services, our Mounties, border patrol and various cadets corps marched on parade. As many and more children, parents grandparents and veterans, and guest speakers stood in the on and off slight drizzle and cold to participate and pay respects.
A duty we owe to those who serve today, and those who have done so in our nation's past. Thousands having giving up their tomorrow's so that we could have ours. And many more who brought home the scars that would never heal, be they physical or otherwise.
Watching some on parade reminded me of my days as a Sergeant Major and drill instructor. Oh.. to have the uniform and pace stick again...
As we gave remembrance across the country yesterday, our men and women around the world did the same. Canadians also did this just outside of the District of Washington yesterday, and on the 10th.
In this area there is some high ground that houses the Saint Elizabeths Hospital Cemetery. On another part of that real estate and perhaps less than a mile away is the site of the US Homeland Security Complex which also houses the US Coast Guard Head Quarters. That facility is named in honour of Vancouver BC born Douglas Munro, a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient from WW11.
At the cemetery lies the remains of Nova Scotia born MOH recipient Joseph Noil, who has been oft noted in this space. And yesterday many of the military and civilian staff at our DC Embassy arrived, a busload I am told, to again this year perform a service of remembrance and lay a wreath at the base of his grave marker, one we had unveiled just a few years ago.
It is my understanding that since learning about the Noil grave at Saint Elizabeths, and playing such a prominent roll in the unveiling ceremonies for a new marker, the embassy has committed to visit this grave annually during Remem-brance Week on the 11th or as close as possible.
When I checked my emails Sunday morning before heading off, I was surprised to already have several photos sent re the Noil visit. The photographer was a former staffer at the hospital, and is now no doubt a most valued volunteer on site.
She played a critical roll in the work leading up to and also the arranging of the unveiling for the marker that finally corrected errors lasting over 130 years on the hero's grave marker.
The pictures were taken on a cell phone so are a bit blurry but I wanted to share them with you anyway...
Moving along, I recently shared with the embassy the story about Lenah Higbee, the Chatham New Brunswick born nurse who moved off to the US and ultimately became the first of only 4 naval nurses to ever be awarded the US Navy Cross. I mentioned that she was buried at Arlington and was told that as a result of the information, her grave would also be added to a growing list of MOH recipients and other Canadians buried at that famous cemetery. Yesterday I also received two pictures from the Embassy
So here, thanks to the Canadian Embassy at DC is the
picture I requested of her grave marker.
Returning now to the Beatrice MacDonald story, in the first two parts of her story appearing here, I had mentioned briefly her NY training as a nurse. By 1915 she was off to the Great War and serving temporarily with the American Ambulance of Paris. She had then returned to the US, worked as a nurse and then manager of a NY surgeon's offices. When the US joined the Great War she was off again to do her bit.
According to "New York Army Cards' Beatrice joined the US Army on 13 May 1917 and was being immediately sent off to a hospital field unit in Europe. But according to the manifest for the USS St Louis she and hundreds of medical staff and other members of the military shipped out the day before... on the 12th.
The first blogs told of her hospital lines being bombed, her getting a head and face wound, and thought so severally injured that she may not live. She was sent to another facility for treatment, survived but lost an eye. Ordered back to the US, she pleaded and won her case to continue to care for the wounded.
General Haig gave her a Mention in Dispatches (MID,) the British Awarded her a Military Medal and the Americans awarded her the Distinguished Service Cross. In fact the first ever awarded to anyone in the US military. Some claim that her injury may well have been the first for the US military, in the face of the enemy, since they entered the Great War.
Now promoted to Chief Nurse, Beatrice MacDonald would go on to receive other impressive and prestigious awards.
A letter I've located says that the French Government had awarded MacDonald with the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star Star for bravery, in early October of 1919. It is possible the medal was sent a few months earlier. The Silver Star is awarded if the recipient had earlier been mentioned in dispatches, as she had been. An example of the medal and star is below.
While it is difficult to say when she also received the British decoration called the Royal Red Cross, a clue just came in days ago that that Beatrice possibly received it before the DSC noted in past blogs.
Regardless of dates, there are 1st and 2nd class of awards, her's being of the 2nd class.
In 1930 She is listed in the NY census and therein is the note...Trained Nurse.. suggesting that she may have been still working in that occupation at the time.
A decade later general MacArthur and others started a movement to have a very old medal of distinction brought back into use. It was started back in the days of another General named Washington, and the Badge he created was called the Badge of Merit. It was introduced for bravery and called a Badge of Merit. Three were known to be awarded, though a handful of other documents suggest, that at least in writing, some others were awarded in those early days, including at least one to a Canadian.(Search for that story on this site.)
Regardless, in 1932, MacArthur wanted to re-establish the badge, but in the form of a medal with different criteria for its awarding. By 1936 the first ever was awarded and it went to a woman who had heard about the medal being introduced and wrote to inform the authorities of her service. And thus she became the first in US history since the mid 1930's to be so awarded the famous Purple Heart of today.
And her name was Beatrice MacDonald. The same Beatrice noted in the last few blogs.
And she was born near Summerside Prince Edward Island. Canada.
Little is known about her life after WWl and more work is being done. Stay tuned for updates on this wonderful hero and the great role model she has become for men and women alike, regardless of which side of our Canada/US border we all live on.
See you next week.