This D-Day, I reflect on my grandfather’s heroism
Today a cell phone buzzes or an email chimes and our modern, tech-addicted brains crave to read what has been sent, hoping it is good news. Not so back in 1944. Not so back then at all. Especially, when the husband was off to war.
Families—wives and mothers mostly—dreaded the arrival of a telegram. Mail was rare enough, but a telegram. That was too rare. So rare that a telegram only delivered bad news. And so it was that day for my family in 1944—the day the telegram arrived:
Ottawa, ONT June 19-1944
Mrs. Eileen Casey,
47 Euclind Ave, London, ONT.
6736 MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE DEEPLY REGRETS TO INFORM YOU THAT LIEUTENANT JOHN HENRY CASEY HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY REPORTED WOUNDED IN ACTION ON A DATE NOT YET AVAILABLE AND DIED OF WOUNDS EIGHTEEN JUNE 1944 STOP IF ANY FURTHER INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE IT WILL BE FORWARDED AS SOON AS RECEIVED.
DIRECTOR OF RECORDS
That was it. In 50 words a husband was gone. A father of two young boys was gone, never to be heard from or seen again. They were all left to pick up the pieces—devastated and afraid.
This year, on June 6th, 75 years have passed since D-Day 1944, when 14,000 Canadian troops landed on Juno Beach. Tens and hundreds of thousands more from other countries landed on the Beaches of Normandy. Their bravery and sacrifice laid a path to victory over tyranny and the Nazis in WWII. We owe them our thanks. But victory tool a tremendous toll.
My grandfather, Lt. Jack Casey, was one of those Canadian soldiers who landed on Juno Beach. He wasn’t one of the 359 Canadians who died on D-Day. He was mortally wounded, however.
He took a machine gun bullet off the head that day and died soon thereafter.
The fate of the war was set that D-Day. So, too, was set the impact on a soon to be grieving family—an impact felt for generations. My father grew up adopted into a new home, in PEI, far away from the family he had known in London, Ontario. He never knew his biological father. At the age of four, he was told “you are now the man of the house. Look after your Mom, your brother, your family.” This was a serious burden for anyone to bear, let alone a very young boy of such a tender age
This D-Day I am taking my youngest daughter—one of Lt. Casey’s great-grandchildren—to a special exhibit of the D-Day Landing, held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
I will bring her to the War Museum because it matters to me. It matters to my father. I believe it should matter to us all. Without a deep understanding of what passed, we genuinely risk it all happening again. I will remember them.