This Remembrance Day, one of Swift Current's last WWII veterans is asking folks to remember his friends.
While virtually everyone knows Remembrance Day is a time to honour the fallen, and those who are actively serving, not many alive today actually remember the men and women who served in WWII, for which the holiday originated.
Robert John Watson joined the Royal Regina Rifles in 1944 at the age of 18 years old.
Watson was sent to the British Isles, France, Germany, and across the European theatre as a private in the armed forces. He joined up after his brother was unable to join due to health restrictions. Being the younger brother, he saw it as his duty to join. From there his enlistment led to some of his most impactful memories and experiences.
In a week, he will be 98 years old, but the memories of those he served with are still as fresh as the day he joined.
Certainly, joining up with other young men mostly aged 18 to 23 years old is a recipe for lifelong memories. Instances of fooling around and camaraderie are the fondest memories for Watson.
"I remember the good times now more because we were young and we had a lot of 18, 19, 20-year-old guys," said Watson. "You're going to have some fun regardless of whether the shells are going off."
He admits though that it was far from an idealic time. The fighting was intense, and he wasn't always immune to the atmosphere of war.
"You had your sad times, too," allowed Watson. "I remember more of the fun times we used to have. We pulled some very fun, awful pranks on some of us sometimes, all in good fun."
Still, even with the bad times and the friends lost along the way, Watson is determined to live on the bright side. He focuses on the fun they all had together and makes it a point to not wallow in sadness.
"I always look on the brighter side of things," laughed Watson. "I find it a lot easier than moaning and groaning and complaining."
Since the war, Watson has gone on to live a very full life. He was able to raise a family, with his granddaughter still living in the area. He lives in a senior home now but still goes walking for at least an hour a day.
He asks people to take the time to remember his friends. Those that are gone now, and those that never made it home. It was their fight and sacrifice that helped to ensure that Canada is what it is today.
"If we can't take one day out of the year to honour the veterans, we're not doing too good," said Watson.
Watson, being older, admits that maybe Canada isn't quite what he imagined it would become when he was a young man.
Still, at the end of the day, Watson says he would still stand up if called upon all over again, as he loves his home.
"I would," said Watson. "Canada is a great country when you look at the rest of the world. She is worth saving."
For those younger men and women considering joining the armed forces, Watson encourages them to give it a try. While it isn't for everyone, everyone who joins will have memories that last a lifetime.
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