Bike convoy to Juno Beach a chance for D-Day vet to revisit old memories
Two generations of Canadian military veterans are riding through France on their way to the shores of Normandy in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Chris Kaye is one 130 soldiers and civilians making the more than 600-kilometre trek from Dieppe, France to Juno Beach as part of a commemorative ride in partnership with the veterans’ and first responders’ mental health charity Wounded Warriors Canada.
His father Russel, who is making his first trip back to Normandy since he fought there 75 years ago, will be riding in a van alongside the convoy through a sponsorship with the charity.
Russel Kaye said the memories of battle along the English Channel have slowly evaporated over time, but a return to the area has dislodged some of those harrowing experiences.
“Now that I'm here, it's starting to come back,” the 95-year-old told CTV News.
Kaye was a 20-year-old gunner when Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. He left farm life in New Brunswick for the military having little knowledge of what being a soldier entailed, but was excited for some of the so-called perks of duty.
“I didn't have any idea what artillery was (or) what infantry was,” he said. “All I knew was going to get some nice uniforms and a new gun.”
Among the memories to resurface since arriving in France is the time he came face-to-face with a Nazi fighter who he didn’t realize was German until he saw the swastika on his hat. He said the soldier was begging for cigarettes on the way to surrendering and Kaye obliged.
“The lesson is: ‘I guess we just didn’t hate the people,’” he said. “We were there to do a job.”
For Chris Kaye, the trip is a reminder of how much his father has been through.
“Sometimes I feel that I should have a better outlook on life because I look at him and I think: ‘How is he so stoic and strong each day?’” he said.
Watch special live coverage commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day here on CTVNews.ca beginning Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET and on Thursday at 5 a.m. ET.