Robert’s column

Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Wreath vandals should learn history

Yhose who destroyed the wreaths have no concern for the sacrifices made

The look of disgust on the face of Legion member Tim Spencer as he held up one of three wreaths that were wrecked earlier this week at the Duncan Cenotaph was one to remember.

Spencer, a member of the local Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 who placed the wreaths at the cenotaph on behalf of the Legion, said he wants the people or person who did the damage to the wreaths, which were placed to honour Cowichan’s soldiers who died in war, to know that they were not meant as a celebration of war.

“These wreaths are meant to commemorate the people who died fighting for their country and are a symbol of honour,” Spencer said.

While Spencer is giving the vandals the benefit of doubt and believes that maybe they don’t understand fully what the wreaths and cenotaph stand for, I’m not that forgiving and would like to see the police throw the book at them if they are ever caught, regardless if the ne’er-do-wells are naive or not.

I’ve had several uncles who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and one of my mother’s brothers died on the battleship HMS Hood, the pride of Britain’s navy at the time, which was sunk in 1942 by Nazi Germany’s largest battleship, the Bismarck, during the Second World War.

More than 1,500 crew members on the Hood, including my uncle, died after the Bismarck managed to shoot one of its large shells through a vulnerable part of the Hood’s armour where munitions were kept, resulting in a huge explosion that sunk the ship within minutes.

Just three British sailors survived.

It seems to me those who destroyed the wreaths have no concern for the sacrifices made by Canadian and other service men and women from all over the world during many wars to ensure their families and countrymen could continue to live free lives.

They obviously don’t know, or just don’t care, what the people whose names are on the Duncan Cenotaph did for them and everyone else in the Cowichan Valley.

If they knew of the grit and bravery displayed by these people, the vandals would, or should, be ashamed that they desecrated the cenotaph by destroying those wreaths.

Among those names is Charles Hoey, the Cowichan soldier after whom the park where the cenotaph is located is named.

Major Charles Hoey is the only soldier from the Valley to receive the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest award for bravery under fire.

In fact, Hoey’s Victoria Cross was one of only 100 awarded among the millions of men and women who served in the Commonwealth armed forces during the Second World War.

He received this rare honour for his selfless acts of bravery in battle while in Asia in February, 1944.

Hoey’s company formed a part of a force that was ordered to capture a position in Burma from the Japanese at all costs.

After a night march through enemy-held territory, the force was met at the foot of the position by heavy machine-gun fire.

Hoey personally led his company under continued heavy fire right up to the objective.

Although wounded at least twice in the leg and head, he seized a Bren gun from one of his men and, firing from the hip, led his company on to the objective.

In spite of his wounds, the company had difficulty keeping up with him, and Hoey reached the enemy strong post first, where he killed all the occupants before being mortally wounded himself.

It’s to recognize people like Hoey that Remembrance Day is celebrated around the world.

Without such soldiers, our world would likely be a lot different than the one we are privileged to live in.

We could only imagine the state of affairs today if Adolph Hitler had won that war.

There are legal penalties for defacing a cenotaph or anything associated with them, like wreaths.

Perhaps putting these vandals in a classroom for a day or two learning history, in addition to their criminal punishment, might do the trick.

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