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Free Press columnist Bill Brady was contacted recently by reader Zaida Rankin with a story about her father experience in the Battle of Passchendaele 100 years ago and the legacy his survival had in London

We admire them, try to emulate them and mourn them when they die. They are men and women of incredible courage who took risks and often died while engaged in acts of heroism.

I am thrilled to see a new generation embracing the idea that those who served and came to the aid of others, who made big sacrifices, should be recognized and honoured. I love the stories of schools a hero and working on projects in their schools to acknowledge and pay tribute.

Many who have never been in combat or risked their lives are also heroes. There are heroes in every great endeavour: education, medicine, literature and the arts.

I think of the commitment and relentlessness of scientists who, well away from patients and the spotlight, spend their days and many nights in laboratories and hospitals. We have in our country and this community innovators and builders as well as generous philanthropists who are heroes because of their compassion and generosity.

And a few weeks ago Canadians of all ages felt the loss of the gifted and generous musician Gord Downie, who inspired so many.

Now on this 11th day of the 11th month, we remember those whose love of country and whose need to serve put them at peril and inspired their acts of heroism.

One such battlefield hero became a champion of education, too. Zaida Rankin, of Sarnia, shared her family story with me.

She reminded me of a historic event that has inspired books, film and generations of Canadians. More than 100 years ago, Canadian and British troops launched an assault to capture the Belgian village of Passchendaele.

Historica Canada refers to the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, as vivid symbol of the mud, madness and the senseless slaughter of the First World War. is stories like hers at right that remind us why today we salute those who went to war, often so young, and have found their place in our country history. They are our Canadian heroes. 6, 1917, the Canadian and British armies launched an assault to capture the village of Passchendaele during the First World War. As well as those killed, thousands of Canadian soldiers were wounded that day.

My father, Geoffrey Wheable, was one of them.

Before he joined the army, he was vice principal of Chesley Avenue elementary school in London, where he had begun his teaching career in 1912. He and my mother were married in August 1916, and he was sent overseas almost immediately.

He described to me the long voyage in a crowded ship on rough seas. After a brief stay in England, his battalion was ordered to the Passchendaele front.

While my father never spoke publicly about that time, in the privacy of our home he told us bits and pieces of his experiences. he was wounded quite severely in the leg, but continued to lead his men and in spite of his wound, captured his objective. For that, he was awarded the Military Cross, a medal presented to him by King George V conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. on that Nov. 6, thinking he was going to die, my father wrote a note to my mother from the battlefield on his signals pad. The note, which I have preserved, reads in part, am so glad you cannot see this place. It is a terror. We attacked just before dawn this morning. The shelling is a terror, but the boys are holding on fiercely. It makes me so proud to be a Canadian and see the way they stick at it. the men carried him off the battlefield to the basement of a small house, which was dark and cold and crawling with rats. The next day he was evacuated to a hospital in London, England, and eventually he was sent home.

My father came close to dying in the mud of Passchendaele. Had he been killed that day, the history of public education in London would have been much different. On his discharge from the army he was made principal of Empress elementary school. Within a few years he became head of the London school system, a position he held, under various titles, from 1925 to 1956.
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