It was a devastating conflict that helped shape Canada’s identity.
The first world war began 100 years ago and many people are taking part in events commemorating the anniversary.
One Okanagan man has a personal reason for participating.
John Graves’ grandfather fought in the Great war and he wants to learn more about it.
He also wants to pay tribute to his grandfather and other Canadian soldiers by going back in time and re-tracing their steps in a special pilgrimage.
A pilgrimage that will commemorate the first major battle his grandfather’s batallion fought in.
“I am hoping to connect on some level with spirit of my grandfather and walking a mile in his shoes so to speak,” says Graves.
Graves has been spending quite a bit of time at the Kelowna military museum.
The Vernon man is learning more about the conflict and the brave efforts of his grandfather, Lieutenant James Rodgers.
Unlike 68, 000 Canadian soldiers, Rodgers survived the conflict.
“When I was a child I recall seeing a couple of bullet wounds when we were at the beach in the summer like a lot of vets he did not speak to me about the service,” says Graves.
With the 100th anniversary of the war, Graves is hoping to attend ceremonies that will commemorate the first major battle his grandfather’s battalion fought in in Belgium and France.
“I absolutely can’t wait for the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of my grandfather to see some of the sights that will still be there, some of the buildings, to meet the locals and hear their stories. I am looking forward to the emotional roller coaster that I will experience there,” says Graves.
It’s already been an emotional roller coaster for Graves as he researches the war.
He’s learned about some of the unimaginable hardships his grandfather went through including being subjected to poisonous gas that used for the first time ever in military warfare.
“It was a horrific, horrific war. It was fought toe to toe. There was a lot of artillery but there was a lot of hand to hand combat,” says Graves.
Graves plans on gathering more of this kind of information abroad and sharing it all upon his return to the Okanagan.
“We owe it to them . We no longer have any veterans from world war one still living with us so I kind of feel a sense of personal responsibility to certainly perpetuate the legacy within my own family and share that legacy with other Canadians, says Graves.
John Graves hopes to travel to Europe in April.
He’s looking for moral and financial support.
He hopes to return the favour by doing a power point presentation about his experience when he returns.