August 5th, 2020

Soldiers always ready to step up

By Letter to the Editor on January 15, 2020.

Tommies, we called them. I was a boy of eight, in Germany at the time, and the Second World War was still very much still going on and, yes, we had all kinds of names for the soldiers on the other side. Some not exactly very nice, but some actually expressed a certain amount of admiration. Y’all know how it with kids, no matter on what side.

A few years ago, a soldier from BATUS, Major P.W., emailed us, the running bunch, to wish us farewell, as he was being re-posted. The major had proved himself a good runner and a fine representative of the men and women stationed at BATUS, whether British or Canadian.

We old-timers have a habit of remembering things from long ago yesterdays better than from yesterday’s yesterday. Whenever the major ran with us, I’d remember Tommy, the universal British soldier.

Oh, I’m sure Tommy wasn’t nor is always good. That’s not what I like to remember, though. I’d rather remember one particular occasion some years back that, to me epitomized the great heart that can beat under the rough exterior of, in this case, a big British Royal Marine.

Our bus had stopped in Calgary for a short wait and transfer. In the row ahead of us sat a little old man, obviously quite ill, and his not very patient nor very kind significant other. The significant other advised us curtly not to feel too sorry for the old man, she had told him not to come along; but he had insisted on seeing his great-grandchildren just once more.

In the rest-room the old gentleman ran into trouble. He seemed so helpless. I tried to help but couldn’t do any real good. In walked a big man; camouflage pants, boots and a horizontally-striped T-shirt. He asked me politely to step aside, proceeded to calm the old fella, undressed him, sent for his suitcase, washed him top to bottom, re-dressed him, picked him up in his arms, and carried him back to the bus. He walked up to the lady who showed no sign of concern nor worry, and in no uncertain terms told her to stand up, make room, and treat the man with a little respect and compassion until she got him to where they were going. Then he simply left the bus, at first to stunned silence and then loud applause.

So, whenever I read a story of Tommy, here, there, wherever in the world, including in town about for example BATUS, I think of that great big British Royal Marine.

Ted Kohlmetz

Medicine Hat

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