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Sunnybrook Veterans Center’s Honored Heroes Remember

In a year when 50 of them turn 100, they’re ready for Remembrance Week

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They have lived so much.

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They have survived so much.

Average age: ninety-six.

“Here I am at 96,” exclaimed war veteran Selena Webster, sitting at the Veterans Center in Sunnybrook. “And I thought I would never make it. But I’m still stuck in there.

They all hang on.

Webster will be one of the proud Canadian heroes inside the Center as they gaze out of their windows at 30,000 Canadian flags on the Remembrance Day grounds.

The gesture – Operation Raise a Flag – will honor their sacrifices in the service of Canada at war.

Webster enlisted in the Army at age 18 and worked as a driver and administrator for the Royal Canadian Army during World War II.

“I remember. It is sad in some places because I saw people die. I learned a lot and I grew mentally thanks to what I saw and I will never forget”, a Webster said in recorded video commentary provided by the Veterans Center as he maintains COVID protocols.

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Veteran Selena Webster is 96 years old.
Veteran Selena Webster is 96 years old. Photo by provided /Sunnybrook Veterans Center

She is one of nearly 300 residents.

“It’s been a tough nineteen months, but we have a wonderful staff,” said Dr Jocelyn Charles, Medical Director of the Center, who has been there for 30 years.

She says the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on the rooms and hallways of Sunnybrook.

“It’s hard not to see a family, especially when you’re 90 and your family means so much to you,” she said.

Remembrance Day and the whole week are still incredibly important to residents.

After twenty months of strict pandemic restrictions, personal pressure persists among staff.

Among their deep fears: “The anxiety of not wanting to be the one bringing COVID into the facility,” said Dr Charles. “So be very diligent when you are not at work, be very diligent in washing your hands, wearing your mask.”

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For months, the Center relied on technology to connect its decorated veterans with relatives who couldn’t enter the facility.

“So we had iPads floating around,” Dr Charles said. “And for some veterans, they loved it because they were now in touch with family and friends across the country.”

The daily effort at the Center is to maintain a safe and caring environment.

Residents are all triply vaccinated – among the first to receive booster shots.

Staff are receiving their third injection.

“It is a privilege to take care of veterans,” said Dr. Charles. “And we took this privilege very seriously. “

This year’s flag campaign will also feature artwork designed by an Indigenous artist – a symbol honoring the sacrifices and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis veterans.

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Joseph Lariviere, 89, is of Aboriginal descent with the Ojibway First Nations and is a member of the Nipissing First Nations.

“We remember the boys who went overseas and gave so much,” said the Korean War Army veteran. “What we have to offer these boys is this day to remember and feel totally grateful.”

Gratitude is what George Branchaud, 80, carries in his heart.

“Remembrance Day has always been something for our families and we always remember it,” said the Royal Canadian Navy veteran who was a marine engineer and was also attached to NATO on many missions.

“I think Canadians should remember the sacrifices that men and women made in WWI and WWII, Korea, peacekeeping. There have been enormous sacrifices made by individuals. And I think that’s what we need to remember.

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The place where Branchaud now lives – at the Veterans Center – is the largest of its kind in Canada.

It opened in 1948.

He is the recognized leader in caring for veterans who can no longer live independently at home.

Fifty heroes living here will be 100 years old this year.

We apologize, but this video failed to load.

They remember those who fell so young – by their side – in battle.

“Remember the people – what they did. Some who did not return. But the end result is really what we needed, ”said resident René Cornelissen, 95.

He served in World War II in the Royal Dutch East Indian Air Force.

After the Americans liberated his area of ​​Holland, he joined the fight, training in Australia and was primarily stationed in Indonesia.

“We must never forget what people did,” he said. “And make sure we teach our kids – be nice.”

This kindness will be in the spotlight this week.

Under their windows.

30,000 Canadian flags planted.

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.