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Students from Garden Valley Collegiate (GVC) in Winkler are continuing to earn literary accolades for their reflections on the military and the sacrifice of veterans.

Rob Wiebe, member of Morden Legion Branch 11 in Morden, says it was gratifying to see local submissions take top honours at the district level and the students' work move on to the provincial level of the competition.

"It was excellent pieces of work that brought these students to the top," Wiebe says.

GVC student Josiah Hildebrand wrote on his great-grandfather Henry Feakes who served in World War II and the backlash he faced returning home.

"I feel like it would've been a very difficult experience to go through," Hildebrand says, "When he came back he wasn't welcomed because he participated in the war, he was rejected from the church he attended."

Feakes was part of the battalion that liberated Holland from the Nazi army. While he faced an icy reception after returning home, the same church he was shunned from eventually realized "the grave mistake and the Pastors met with Grandpa Feakes to apologize for the errors of the past and welcomed him with open arms as someone who was willing to give his life for the freedoms we enjoy today and thanked him for his sacrifice," Hildebrand explains.

essay feakesHildebrand's great-grandfather Henry Feakes

He says researching his family history created a new appreciation both for his great-grandfather and the sacrifice of all veterans.

Fellow GVC student Emily Penner chose to submit a poem, but worried she wouldn't be able to capture the theme without experience in the military. "I didn't really feel fit to write about this unless I had talked to someone who had."

She instead interviewed GVC teacher and veteran Mark Wilson, before writing 'Letters Home', focusing on "the things and the people soldiers leave behind."

Penner says the experience changed her perception of those serving in the Canadian military.

"I realized soldiers are focused on other people, the people they're leaving behind... they're leaving their wives and their children. It made me realize how selfless they are as they head off to war."

The Youth Remembrance Contests through the Royal Canadian Legion aims to honour Canada's Veterans through creative art and writing.

If the pieces win in their category at the Provincial level they will move on to the national competition. National winning pieces are displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Below is Penner's award winning poem:


Letters Home

By: Emily Penner


Do not open unless I die.

That is what I wrote on a flimsy, stained piece of yellow paper.

It’s the time when I wear my only black tie
She’ll sit in the pew and I listen to her cry
And I am thankful, thankful she was mine to stand by.

I write, I write on that flimsy, stained piece of yellow paper.

Over the sound, over the sound of wailing guns
For I am a husband
But not only am I a husband, I am a father,
I am a father and I am a son.

I erase, I erase what little I had on that flimsy, stained piece of yellow paper.

For what can I possibly say?
I try make it sound brave.
I think of her, and who I’m trying to save.
I think of my children and tell them to behave.

Now what can I do?
In the end I am only a grave.

What shall I write, what shall I write on that flimsy, stained piece of yellow paper?

Who next, who next will wear his only black tie,
As she sits in the pew and we listen to her cry?
and at night, at night his child sings his own lullaby?

Please, please do not open unless I die.



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