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News - All - 16 Aug 2007

News Item 4748 of 4749 

Veterans: 16 Aug 2007
Fred Gies, Lest We Forget

Fred Gies was a very old soldier who refused to fade away. Even at the age of 103, this battled-scarred veteran was a living symbol to people in and around Waterloo Region of the service and sacrifice made by those who fought and died for Canada in the First World War.

We remembered each Remembrance Day because Gies would not let us forget. But with his death last week, this act of remembering becomes more difficult yet somehow even more important.

Because we have lost this human link to a tragic yet formative chapter in our nation's history and because so few Canadian First World War vets survive, we are in danger of coming to see the horrors of 1914 to 1918 as mere facts in history books, not facts in people's lives. But if we are to learn from the mistakes of that war and thereby avoid repeating them, we need to remember the people.

This is where the life of Gies -- or Goose as his friends called him-- is instructive. He was an Ontario farmboy who crossed an ocean to fight in some of the bloodiest battles in history. While millions around him died, he survived. A load of shrapnel stopped him but couldn't kill him. He lived through two years as a prisoner of war, too, before coming home to a quiet life in Kitchener.

But though a shy man, he soon realized he had survived for a purpose. He had to bear witness. He had to tell what he had seen, not for his own sake but for the sake of all of his comrades who never came home. So he joined the Kitchener branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and worked so hard for it that they named it after him. He marched in each Nov. 11 parade until his aging legs would no longer carry him. And with honesty and dignity, he told each successive generation of the awful pity of war. Death has robbed him of his vocation. Now we must remember him.


The Record - Kitchener, Ont.
 

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