Last Thursday there was a ceremony held in the small Ingleside Cemetery southeast of Langenburg which was both sombre, yet uplifting.
The ceremony saw representatives of The Netherlands government attending the ceremony to lay a wreath on the grave of World War II veteran Wilford Kirk.
Kirk, who died exactly a year previous to the ceremony, is one of Canada's war heroes.While that may not be widely known locally, and that is a statement on how we few know our soldiers and their deeds, he is remembered in The Netherlands.
The reason he is remembered to the point that country's government would send representatives to the tiny cemetery is rather straight forward. Kirk became a hero in their country in 1944, when he was instrumental in taking a critical hill position held by the Germans near the town of Wonensdrecht.Kirk's effort to take the hill earned him two high honours, a knighthood from the Queen of The Netherlands, and the Militaire Willems Orde, the highest military medal in the country.It is interesting how Kirk is still revered by The Netherlands, how all Canadian soldiers are in that country.
Judie Dyck, Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, from Saskatoon spoke at the ceremony. She explained how students in the European country are still taught about Canada because soldiers from here were instrumental in liberating The Netherlands from German occupation.The education goes farther though. Dyck explained students in The Netherlands are also responsible for the maintenance of the graves of Canadian soldiers buried in their country. That is an amazing statement, and one we might well learn from here in Canada.
The Remembrance Day and Decoration Day ceremonies here in Yorkton are two days a year we remember the contributions our soldiers have made to maintaining the freedoms we so often take for granted, but in The Netherlands the connection to their liberators somehow goes deeper.
Perhaps it is simply the fact we in Canada knew the Hitler-led German forces were a threat to liberty, but in The Netherlands they lived it. They felt the oppression of the occupying force, and even 65-years later, they respect those who gave them their freedom back.
Sgt. Wilford Kirk was one of those brave Canadians. He didn't go up that hill near Wonensdrecht with the idea of winning a medal. He did it out of duty and bravery toward a goal of turning back the German forces. Many died that day sharing in Kirk's efforts. He did, and lived to wear his medal proudly.
It is humbling for all of us to think how Kirk's courage is still honoured half a world away. We should learn to remember our soldiers with the same continuing reverence.