Extracted from story by Terry Roberts
CBC News · Posted: Jun 29, 2020 6:00 AM NT
According to research by CBC News and the Royal Canadian Legion, there are now an estimated two dozen living Second World War veterans in the province of Newfoundland Labrador. The collective energy of the thousands of men and women from Newfoundland and Labrador who took part in the Second World War is rapidly fading, as the end of an era approaches. Just as they had in the First World War, a generation before, they signed up by the thousands. "Everybody was enlisting. Everybody was going. That was the thing to do," said Charlie Starkes.
Research by CBC News and the Provincial Command of the Royal Canadian Legion reveals that roughly two dozen veterans of the 1939-45 global conflict are still alive, with 10 of them being cared for at the Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavilion in St. John's.
"When the last of the Second World War veterans pass away, it will be an emotional and sad day for the Pavilion's history," Eastern Health, who operates the facility, said in a statement. They are all that remain of the estimated 22,000 who voluntarily enlisted in the British and Canadian forces, served in the merchant marine or the overseas forestry unit, or took up posts to protect their homeland. More than 1,000 made the ultimate sacrifice during the war, but the years since have taken a much bigger toll on their ranks. As of March 2019, Veterans Affairs Canada estimated the number of living Second World War and Korean War veterans in the province at 400, with just under 40,000 countrywide.
Elmo Baird is one of those veterans He grew up in Twillingate before going to Scotland with the overseas forestry unit following the outbreak of the Second World War. After two years, he joined the Royal Air Force and served the remainder of the war as a mechanic in many areas of the Middle East.
Baird marked his 100th birthday in March, at the height of the pandemic. "I think about a lot of the friends I lost and left behind. You try not to dwell on it." The veterans know they're the last of a generation who paid an awful price for a better world, and a better Newfoundland and Labrador. The cemeteries are full of their buddies, and soon enough, they'll join them. "They're all gone. And I should be gone long ago," Baird said, satisfied that he has lived a full and long life.
How do they want to be remembered when they're gone? "A decent person. That's all," said Baird. "And that I did my duty. I've got nothing to regret."