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Veterans share memories with Cherry Valley WI

Rocky Lunan and George Wright shared memories with members of the Cherry Valley Women's Institute on Tuesday.

Rocky Lunan and George Wright shared memories with members of the Cherry Valley Women’s Institute on Tuesday.

In a Remembrance Day themed program Tuesday, the Cherry Valley Women’s Institute members welcomed Prince Edward County war veterans George Wright and Rocky Lunan.

Wright was a member of the famed Devil’s Brigade, a legendary First Special Service Force composed of Canadian and American soldiers, in the Second World War.
Lunan served with Canadians in the Korean War (1950-53) guarding sectors of the front lines and in heavy combat.

“They asked me where I wanted to be posted to and I said ‘the west coast’ and they posted me to Picton. That’s how I wound up here. I’m glad I did now,” said Lunan, who originally hailed from Manitoba.

“When I first joined up, it was for the excitement of it,” said Wright. “My Dad had gone through the First World War and he had joined up again for the Second World War. I had been from here to Belleville two or three times, and that was the extent of my travels. He had been all over France during the First World War and now he was going again. So, I thought, why not me?”

Both veterans were all of 19 years of age at the time they hit the front lines and learned what war was really about. Killing.

“The Communists have a totally different philosophy, as you know. The Chinese were tenacious fighters and would die trying to kill you…” said Lunan. “Most of the people were like me when they first got over there and they all hit the front lines running.”

Wright says he got bored after a year or so of spit and polish and a failed attempt to become a rear gunner. Not long after a six-week course with the British Commandos he was sent back to the Hasty Ps. He was called in by his CEO and told of a ‘suicide squad’ being formed in the United States.

“I had to have my kit packed for 6 p.m. that night and had to go see my girlfriend to tell her I might not be back,” said Wright. “The training was toughest it could be. We had to be an expert in weapons, Canadian, American and German; explosives, be ski troopers, mountain climbing, fighting with our B42 knife issued to us and be in outstanding physical shape. Maybe that’s why I’m living so long now,” said the 95-year-old.

devils-brigade-stickerHe showed the sticker his comrades pinned on the bodies of the enemy – translating the German words into ‘the worst is yet to come’.

“It became demoralizing for the enemy,” said Wright. “It was soon after we were known as the Devil’s Brigade.”

Questions were asked by members of the women’s institute about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, whether it was new, or what used to be called “shell shocked”.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder syndrome can pop up pretty near anytime,” said Lunan. “I have it and my psychiatrist said it was from Korea, though it didn’t turn up (for me) until the 1960s.”

He agreed that for many it used to be called shell shock.

“That’s what one American General called it and then he shot himself.”

Rocky Lunan and George Wright

Rocky Lunan and George Wright

The women’s institute members wanted to know if there were good memories from their service years.

“One time there was a group of about 16 of us going down the road and heading for the lines and the people at the side of the road were having great problems with getting a building up,” recounted Lunan. “We stopped and built it, and went on. It’s what you would do here in Canada.”

Wright said the best thing that happened to him while serving was meeting his wife Kay, on a blind date. She waited for him for three years while he served and then they married. Kathleen died in 2015, on the day of their 70th wedding anniversary.

He also recalled receiving a bible from his Dad.

“He got it from his mother and carried it through the First World War and told me I could carry it through the Second. I still have it.”

The afternoon’s hosts also wanted to know about the two veterans’ medals.

“All these medals… I don’t know how I deserve them any more than anybody else because everybody did their best,” said Wright. “I save a guy’s life but I know very well that he would have done the same thing for me. So what’s the difference between us? There’s 500 of our guys who gave up their lives so I could live. So I’ll wear these medals for them, not for me. I think they earned them, not me.”

Lunan explained his were standard medals – the Korean Medal, the Volunteer Service Medal and the UN Medal and the most recent one hanging from his neck, the Ambassador for Peace Medal, given as a thank you from the Korean government.

“The Ambassador came from Korea, to Kingston, and they called me up and said ‘here’ – some 60 years after the war. The Volunteer Service Medal was 25 years after the war.”

Wright said that today, he sometimes wonders if it was all worthwhile.

“We’re bending over, or giving up our freedoms and we’ve allowed religion to be taken out of our schools… I read in the Star this morning that Air Canada barred all their employees from wearing poppies until the union apparently got into it and they withdrew.

“This is all happening because we’re afraid we’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings. I fear for what our grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to be looking at in years to come. They’re going to be fighting here, not over there. That’s what I’m afraid of.”

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