Imagine looking out the window of the family farmhouse at Seba Beach, Alberta and seeing the military vehicle pull into the yard. Pearl’s heart must have pounded as the men in uniform came up the walk with a telegram in hand. It was 1944 and three of her sons were in the midst of battle in Europe. Which one was it? Had she lost one of them?
Glen was my father-in-law. He enrolled in the army in October of 1943 and was deployed in early January of the following year. He was just 18 years old.
We don’t know a lot about his wartime experiences. Like many who saw the gruesome face of war firsthand, he didn’t talk much about what he went through over there. We’ve only been able to piece together bits and pieces from the few things he did say and more recently, from his military record which our son requested from the Canadian Archives in Ottawa. We do know that he once spent several days in a foxhole behind enemy lines waiting to be rescued and we know that he probably suffered from what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder. According to Mother, for the rest of his life he would occasionally wake up cowering on the floor beside the bed. He was back in that foxhole terrified that, at any moment, an enemy soldier would find him and his life would be over.
Father had been in Europe for only nine months when he was seriously wounded and unable to return to action. A second telegram dated October 19, 1944 brought the incorrect news that the nature of his injury was “bomb fragment wounds to face and head.” A letter dated November 27, 1944 contained more accurate information.
“I am directed to inform you that official information has now been received from Canadian Military Headquarters Overseas advising that when your son, M-8247 Pte. Glen Marion DeBock, was wounded in action on the 6th October 1944, he suffered a bullet wound to the right orbit into the sphenoid sinus resulting in the loss of the right eye.”
He was lucky to be alive. Imagine taking a bullet to the head and surviving! He spent the remainder of 1944 in hospitals in the UK followed by another three months in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver before finally being discharged with a prosthetic eye. Life would never be the same for this young farm boy, however. He often suffered excruciating headaches and like many of his compatriots, he took to drowning his vivid memories in alcohol. It wasn’t until the final years of his life that he gave up drinking and found peace in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
On November 11, as we pause to remember, we give thanks for so many young boys who went off to war with high ideals and ended up paying for our freedoms with their lives; many making the ultimate sacrifice and others, like Father, surviving with shattered dreams and broken bodies. In reality, these are the men who gave us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and all the other freedoms that we take for granted in this great land.
Let us never glorify war but let us remember those who were willing to go and fight on our behalf and those who continue to do so.