___at 93, second world war vet popular with younger military at remembrance day lunch__
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World War veteran Don Antoine and ATIS Ian Clement share a laugh at the Remembrance Day luncheon in the Sharbot Lake Legion last week. Clement said vets like Antoine are a big reason he joined the military. “I wanted it to mean something,” he said.
News — It’s become a tradition for the Sharbot Lake Legion to provide lunch to all the current members of Canada’s military who come to participate in the Remembrance Day services.
Of course there are current Legion members all about in their uniforms and medals.
On this day in 2015, there was one medal in particular that it seemed none of the younger military could resist having a look at.
It was displayed proudly on the chest of Sharbot Lake’s Don Antoine and proclaimed to the world that he was part of the Canadian contingent that liberated Holland from the Nazi occupation.
“We liberated Holland in 1945,” he said.
And there was a steady stream of young soldiers lining up to shake his hand.
“It’s humbling to talk to him,” said MCpl. Todd Ward. “Especially with all he’s done for our country.
“It’s nice to see the veterans out today.”
And Antoine had the same response for each who congratulated him, especially those who called him a ‘hero.’
“I’m not the hero,” Antoine said. “The ones who didn’t make it back, they’re the heroes.
“All I did was do my job.”
Antoine’s ‘job’ was as a platoon sergeant with the 48
th Highlanders, a storied regiment by anybody’s standards. At age 93 (“getting younger every day and looking forward to the reunion in seven years”), only he and Herb Pike remain from regiment’s Second World War contingent.
He still goes to all the reunions including one in Holland and more recently in Ottawa.
He was a little perturbed at one aspect of the Ottawa celebration though.
“We were on parade but they kept making me sit down,” he joked.
Antoine joined the service when he was 14 years old in March of 1940. The 48
th Highlanders were deployed to Africa before participating in the landings on Sicily and the battle for Italy.
“We were there two days before D-Day,” he said.
After Italy was secured 22 months later, his unit was dispatched to Holland, where he stayed until the end of the war.
He was wounded three times, all in the legs, but never let it get him down.
Still, the memories remain vivid.
“The horrors stay with you, you never forget,” he said. “But you put the war behind you.”
Returning home, he went to school and graduated with a Bsc in pharmacology. He worked for many years at UpJohn. Twenty-two years ago, he retired to Sharbot Lake, where his wife Mimi still runs a successful real estate business.
The memories are still there, but some of them are better than others. For example, he’s one of the few Second World War veterans who has fond memories of the food.
“In Holland, there were plenty of hugs from the women and they fed us good,” he said. “We had our own rations of course but there were tourist camps and restaurants.
“It was good food.”
However, while the allies were eating well, the few Germans that were still floating around were not, and posed a problem at times.
“The Germans knew it was over for them and they were starving,” he said. “We had to guard the food.”
And there is that one memory that most soldiers agree will never go away.
“The most important part of any battle is attack,” he said. “Once the bullets start flying, you do your job.”
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