Shot down! Killed In Action! Missing In Action! The death of Canada’s Fallen Heroes is more than headlines and words, each death represents a son, daughter, father, mother, sister, or brother that believed in doing the right thing.

Throughout the year, our foundation calls on local municipalities, corporations, and families to fund memorial prints of Canada’s fallen heroes so that we can treasure the stories and histories of our communities. The places we call home today were built on the sacrifice of 118,000 men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice when called upon. The investments by donors who make this project possible show the power of giving, similarly to what our fallen heroes believed in.

As we work diligently from coast to coast to coast, we are elated when we are met with stories of the impact our mission is making on these communities. The memorial prints being created not only share a person’s memory but also give roots to the history, culture, and strengthens fabric of towns, villages, and cities throughout the Country.

We are pleased to present the story of Willard Lawrence Doran, a fallen hero from Ponoka, AB written and submitted by Pastor Rob McArthur.

Memoir to Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation penned by Pastor Rob McArthur.

“Several years ago, my wife, Shannon, was solicited by Canadian Fallen Heroes, a Canadian not-for-profit organization who works to humanize Canada’s fallen through memorials that provide a glimpse into Canadian soldiers’ lives and preserve their memory. I’m not sure how they got her number, but Shannon thought the cause was good; over the years, she has given some money annually when they have called.

Now to be honest, in her case, not a lot of thought went into the process. We have a family “policy” that when people ask for help, we try to help, (you have no idea how many people come up to me after a sermon asking for help after I share that!). She wanted to help; however much like our annual poppy drives, we didn’t think much about the gift. Many of us put a couple loonies or a toonie into the box and wear our poppy for a few weeks to commemorate and remember; but by and large, for most, it’s an impersonal gesture, especially as the years pass and the bulk of Canada’s fallen move further and further away from memory. For the most part, that was what my wife experienced as she donated to Canadian Fallen Heroes.

But then back at the beginning of October, that changed a little but for us. Our impersonal act of remembrance, suddenly became much more personal. When we went to collect the mail one day, we discovered a large envelope type package in the mail. It was close to two feet long and another 12-14” wide. As we opened it we discovered this beautiful plaque I have with me here today. This plaque commemorates the life of Willard Lawrence Doran, a young man from Ponoka.

Willard was born in 1922, on May 24, (coincidentally, the same day of the year my eldest daughter was born on). Willard was raised on a farm outside of town and loved many of the same activities my own children enjoy. He graduated from the Ponoka High School in 1940; (my own daughter graduates from the Ponoka High School this year). From there, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce in 1942, where he flew as a gunner in a Lancaster bomber.

On January 2, 1944, Willard was killed in action. While on a night raid over Berlin, Willard’s aircraft was shot down by a German night fighter. Willard was 21 years old.

At first, we wondered what this plaque was. My wife vaguely remembered donating money – it certainly didn’t stand out in our minds. I wonder how often we make our donation and it doesn’t stand out in our minds? We write a cheque, we donate a few dollars – but it doesn’t go much further than that.

But this plaque is more than just a donation. This plaque commemorates a life – it memorializes a young man who fought and fell for our nation. But it doesn’t stop there,…because at the end of Willard’s story, at the bottom of the plaque it says something else. It says “Commissioned by Ponoka Child Care Centre”, the name of my wife’s business. Though initially we were simply financing this memorial, we now have a responsibility to do a little more with it. This plaque now represents our investment. It represents our staff. It represents our customers. As a daycare facility, this plaque now represents our responsibility to educate and teach remembrance to children.

Quite honestly, I didn’t quite know what to do with it, so I reached out to our friend Ron Labrie and asked him what he knew of this young man. Thankfully, through Ron’s hard work and the work of his students, Willard’s life had been honored through the studies and efforts of remembrance done through the Bronc’s world tour. Ron was able to put me in touch with Willard’s nephew and next week the children of our daycare will present this plaque to him to honor a young man who never came home. In the meantime, we have used this memorial to teach the daycare children, in the most sensitive & creative ways we can, the sacrifice Willard and may others made on their behalf. We are teaching them how to remember.

A donation and a poppy on our chest is the right thing to do; but more than that, we must choose to remember. We must train ourselves to remember. We have a responsibility to remember.

Did you know that memory is different than recalling events that happened in the past? Memory is different than history. The events of history are someone else’s story. They are events that occurred long ago to someone else. Memory, on the other hand, belongs to me, it is my story. It relates to the questions: “where do I come from?” and “of what narrative I am a part?”. History answers the question, “What happened?” but memory answers the question, “Who am I in relation to the past?”. It is more about identity and the connection between the generations. In the case of the collective memory of those who died defending our nation, like young men like Willard, all depends on how we find ourselves in that story, and how we tell it to the future generations.

In today’s fast-moving culture, we undervalue acts of remembering. Computer memories have grown, while our own memories have become shorter and shorter. Our children’s knowledge of history is often all too vague. Our sense of space has expanded while our sense of time has shrunk.

That’s not the way it should be. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the knowledge of where we have come from, the things for which we sacrificed in our lives. None of the things we value — freedom, human dignity, justice — was achieved without a struggle. None of those can be sustained without conscious vigilance. A society without memory is like a journey without a map. It’s all too easy to get lost.

We should all cherish the richness of knowing that each of our lives are but a chapter in a book begun by those who gave so much before us. To this chapter we add our contributions and then we are handing it on to our children. Life has meaning when it is part of a story, and the larger the story, the more our imaginative horizons grow. Besides, things remembered do not die. The closest we get to immortality here on earth is in remembrance.

In the Bible, memory begins with God. Four times in the book of Genesis, God is spoken of as remembering. “God remembered Noah” and brought him out of the Ark onto dry land. When God spoke of the rainbow as a sign for his promise to never again destroy the earth, he said, “I will remember my covenant; “when the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” It says “God remembered Abraham” and saved his nephew Lot from the destruction of the cities he lived in. “God remembered Rachel” and gave her a child.

Furthermore, to remember is more than just the mental act of recalling memories. It is more about the actions that are taken because of remembering. God didn’t suddenly recall that there was a boat out there with Noah on it. When it says that God remembered, He does so in acting on behalf of His people, toward their future, and for their lives.

To recall Willard’s sacrifice in and of its own right would be empty; rather the action we take to honor him and his many fallen comrades is what is important. How we conduct our lives today, choosing to overlook offense, praying for peace on the earth, demonstrating the attitudes of Christ; it is those actions and attitudes that far outweigh the poppy we wear in remembrance. Let’s choose today to carry remembrance on our hearts and minds. Let’s make it personal.”

We would like to send out gratitude and thanks to Rob and Shannon of the Ponoka Child Care Centre for their on-going and unwavering commitment to the remembrance, education, and sharing the important stories of Canada’s Fallen Heroes.