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VIDEO: Remembering wartime efforts in Simcoe-Grey

(November 11, 2015) Whenever I travel around the riding on Remembrance Day, I can't help but think of the sacrifice that so many young men and women from Simcoe-Grey have made over the years.

At times I can almost picture young farm boys waving goodbye to their families from the train station platforms in places like Beeton, Alliston, Creemore and Stayner.

Travelling near CFB Borden, it's easy to imagine puttee-wearing soldiers marching along the sideroads on exercise, before heading overseas to fight during the First World War.

And it's not hard to contemplate planes buzzing around the sky above the base and nearby Edenvale during the Second World War, as airmen learned to fly through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Wasaga Beach also saw military activity during the Second World War, as soldiers on leave enjoyed its sandy shores and the refreshing water of Nottawasaga Bay.

Standing at the harbour in Collingwood, one can readily picture workers in the shipyard, building corvettes during the Second World War.

More recent images come to mind, too.

For example, CFB Borden played an important role in training troops who served in Afghanistan.

Military history surrounds us in Simcoe-Grey, even if we don't always think about it or know where to look.

Regardless the period in Canadian history, people in the riding always answered their country's call.

And, sadly, some paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We see their names etched in the stonework at cenotaphs in places such as Collingwood, Ravenna, Stayner and Tottenham. Many of their descendants still live in the community and no doubt have very personal recollections on Remembrance Day.

The broader numbers are staggering.

Veterans Affairs Canada reports 650,000 Canadians served during the First World War. Of this number, more than 68,000 gave their lives. During the Second World War, more than one-million Canadians put on the uniform and 47,000-plus were killed. In the Korean War, almost 28,000 Canadians served and 516 were killed. During Afghanistan, 159 Canadians died.

In each case, these numbers represent a real person. The grief associated with each death was raw. Many people still feel a great sense of loss today, despite the passing of time.

Please take a moment on Remembrance Day to think about the price that was paid for the freedom we enjoy.

In our instant gratification world, it's easy to lose sight of what young men and women gave up to protect our way of life.

We owe them a debt of gratitude – a debt that no matter what, we can never fully pay.

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.

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