Decorated Korean War veteran Melvin Anderson has a message for elementary school students.
“War is hell but it’s a necessary evil,” the Langley resident said. “We fought for the freedom enjoyed in Canada today.”
For the past five years, Anderson has visited local schools to talk about the sacrifices made by Canada’s military personnel, past and present.
This year, he brought along with him to Cloverdale schools a torch made out of poppies, as a tribute to the timeless poem, In Flanders Fields, penned in 1915 by Canadian physician, Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae.
“It’s hard to read,” McCrae said, about In Flanders Fields.
“It breaks me up.”
Dedicated to McCrae, Anderson’s homemade poppy torch is inspired by the line in the poem, “To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high.”
“I thought, ‘how about I make a poppy torch?’” Anderson shared. “What’s more honourable than a poppy torch?”
He says he spent “three or four hours” putting the model together.”
Anderson said Remembrance Day ceremonies he has attended in the past have been very emotional for him.
Last November at the Cloverdale cenotaph, he laid down four wreaths including one for the Korean war, and another for the working horses killed during the First World War.
“There were over 60,000 horses killed in the First World War,” he said.
“That’s a lot of horses.”
Anderson joined the military in 1950 because, he said, “I always wanted to be a soldier.”
In Korea, he served as a Vickers Machine Gunner from 1952 to ’53. “They ordered us to fire in a certain position and we did. You just did what you’re told.”
“That was a terrible war,” Anderson said. “The military suffered a lot in Korea but in my estimation, the Korean people suffered even more than we did.”