Monday, November 13, 2006

More thoughts surrounding Remembrance Day

I saw "The Longest Day" again on TV, and I was amazed at the number of stars in it. It included Jeffery Hunter, who portrayed Christopher Pike in Star Trek, the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise before Kirk. This led my train of thought about D-Day to the fact that one of the brave heros who stormed Juno Beach that day was Captain James Montgomery Doohan, who would later be known to most of the world as Scotty, the best engineer of the best ship in Starfleet. So, I did a bit of research...

From Wikipedia:

"His first combat assignment was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day. Shooting two snipers along the way, Doohan led his unit to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines and took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan took six hits from a Bren gun fired by a nervous sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case, and the shot finger was amputated (during his later screen acting career he would generally conceal this).

Despite his wounds, Doohan remained in the military, trained as a pilot and flew an artillery observation plane. He flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for 666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF, as a Royal Canadian Artillery officer in a flying role in support of #1 Canadian AGRA (Army Groups Royal Artillery). All three Canadian (AOP) RCAF Squadrons were manned by Artillery Officer-pilots and 'aircrewed' by Artillery personnel serving as observers. Though never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was once labeled the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces"."

At one point I was looking how to recommend Mr. Doohan for the Order of Canada, but it turns out that you cannot be made a member after you have died, although if you have been named to the Order, but not invested in it, it can be done so posthumously. There should be a way to honour him, as he was a great Canadian, and most people in Canada don't know him as a Canadian.

Another thing that I found interesting is that so many people were inspired by his character, Scotty, and went into Engineering. In fact, one year, more than half of the people in engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) said that they had gone into that program because they wanted to be like Scotty. In 1993, the school gave him an honorary engineering degree!

"In fact, science fiction - especially Star Trek - generated so much interest in engineering amongst young people in the United States, that in 1993 MSOE presented an honorary degree to James Doohan, who portrayed "Scotty" in the original Star Trek series." - MSOE NEWS SERVICES

In fact, a lot could be made out of Mr. Doohan's life for both it's inspiration of people to go into engineering, and for the fact that like a lot of young people today who have served in both the Canadian and American armed forces, that they can then go on after their service and become an inspiration to millions of people, even after being wounded, and disfigured.

William Shatner can't same the same.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Remembrance Day remembrance for those who have given their lives, and one who also gave me a name.

In the US, kids may learn the Pledge of Allegiance in grade Canada, we tend to learn "In Flanders's Fields".

When I was in Air Cadets, every year we would be down at the Cenotaph, Ottawa's War Memorial near Parliament Hill, and stand at attention for what seemed like hours on end (was really only minutes, of course), but to see people that would have been my grandfather's age crying, and smiling at the same time was a strange sight that will always stick with me.

Some years, I attend a Remembrance Day Ceremony at St. Patrick's HS, which inherited the tradition from St Pats Collage before it was swallowed by one of the bigger local Universities. My namesake died in WWII, and it's really something to hear your name, the name of a man I never knew, and to see hundreds of people pause momentarily after his name to honour him. It's a very powerful moment for me.

If things had been slightly different, I would have gone into the Canadian Air Force, studied geophysics with the aim of becoming a Canadian Astronaut...but that reality never was...I probably would have participated in the first Iraq War, and put my life on the line there.

So I honour my namesake, Farrell James McGovern, who died on his way over to Europe like many brave souls, knowing that every lost ship in the Atlantic, like the one my grandfather went down on, The SS Nerissa, enabled another to complete her journey and bring men and materials to fight the Nazis.

And every year, I tend to go through two or three poppies, as they do tend to fall off after a while. I'm actually on my fourth this year, and I have started using a Canadian Flag pin to replace the bent straight pin that is usually used to hold them on.

Unfortunately, I am too sick this year to attend any of the ceremonies, but I will probably be watching the one at the Cenotaph, like millions of other Canadians do each year.