Monday, 7 November 2011

#Remembrance Day: Letters to Vera

Dear Vera:

I am writing this from Soest, Germany, the winter of 1954.

I'm getting pretty bored over here, especially when I'm not feeling much like going out. But I can't be bothered, as all the fellas want to go out and have a few and start looking around for women.

Though I have not always been a perfect angel myself, I can't and won't be like the rest, or perhaps should I say the biggest percentage of guys.

I like to go out and have a few drinks and try and forget a few things, but I can't see how some of the guys are married, and, from what I can gather, have very nice wives and kiddies, can go ahead and do the things that they do and make such damn fools of themselves. With you and the kids to look forward to, I haven't any inclination to bother with them.

Just to give the army something to think about, I have requested that I relinquish my stripes as I shall be taking my discharge as soon as possible. Under the circumstances, I see no reason why I should continue in the army.

I have been called in and they tried to talk me out of it, but I am a stubborn person. Under no circumstances will I re-enlist."

Love always, Russ

Dear Vera:

Russ must have been so pleased when you both got such a lovely wee girl. He spoke about his cousin in Inverness getting a wee girl and how he wanted one of his own.

You are both in my thoughts.

Cousin Ilsa, Glasgow Scotland, 1956

Eight months later, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, Russell Simpson rolled his car on a lonely road in St. Catharines, Ontario with a six pack of beer by his side.

The Koop brothers were awakened by the crash and the headlights shining through their window. The boys tried in vain to save the 36-year-old who lay pinned and dying under the weight of his car. They watched as the life drained from his face. Barely teenagers, the Koop brothers never forgot the world weary soldier they couldn't save that night.

Russell's older brother Doug, a tow truck driver, answered the call. He was also the one who came to Vera's house to give her the news. Bob was five, Gary was four and Rosalie was eight months old.

Life was never the same for this soldier's family, for his wife who suffered from depression and for his kids who never knew their dad.

These are pictures of my mother, Vera and my brothers Gary and Bob, with Grandpa Loyal. They were about this age when he died.

There are no baby pictures of me.

My mother stopped taking pictures after my Dad died.

People always think about the soldiers, but never the families that are left behind.

Russell Simpson died in 1958.

It seems the army got him after all.

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