Teen's book seeks to give voice to veterans

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Teen's book seeks to give voice to veterans Empty Teen's book seeks to give voice to veterans

Post by Cassey on Tue 26 Feb 2019, 7:26 pm

Michelle Ruby

Published on: February 26, 2019

Teen's book seeks to give voice to veterans Williamson
Brantford native Emma Williamson recently designed, wrote and took the photographs for a book about local military personnel and veterans. The hardcover book will be distributed for free to all local elementary and secondary schools. WILL VIPOND TAIT / FOR HILLFIELD STRATHALLAN COLLEGE



When Emma Williamson was a little girl she spent a lot of time at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope.

She’d often be taken there by her great-grandfather, John Spellman, a veteran of the Second World War. Other veterans leading the tours would let Emma and her twin brother, Ben, crawl into the cockpits of the planes and tell them (age-appropriate) war stories.

Emma, now 17, never forgot those outings and, particularly on Remembrance Day, was “overwhelmed by the gratitude I felt for those that have sacrificed so much for all of us.”

Wanting to show that gratitude in a tangible way and, at the same time, share the stories of veterans and those who currently serve in the military with her peers, Emma has produced a hardcover book called Lessons From Soldiers and Veterans For the Youth of Today.

She planned the book for a year with the help of her mom Kerina. Emma’s grandfather, Paul Williamson, arranged interviews with three Second World War veterans and six men and one woman currently serving and based out of the 56th Field Artillery Regiment in Brantford.

Emma conducted the interviews, did all the writing and photography and designed the book.

Her objective, she said, was to create a visual tribute that gives Canadian veterans a voice “to the younger generation so that the lessons they learned through their sacrifice will be honoured and remembered.

“Really, it just came from my heart,” she said.

The young author, who is a graduate of Our Lady of Providence Catholic Elementary School in Brantford, asked each person she interviewed to talk about their time in service, about their lives in general and, most important, she said, what lessons they have learned that they want future generations to remember.

The book includes profiles of Second World War veterans Lloyd Bentley, John Sorensen and Pawel Lojko, along with Robert Fekete, Dave Vreugdenhil, Grant Philpott, Haleigh Vanderpost, Chris Chaban, Jason Long, and James Cavin, who are all currently serving with the Canadian Armed Forces.

“It was amazing,” said Emma. “They were all so kind and very open with their stories.”

She said she was struck by how differently each person responded when asked about lessons they’ve learned and hope to pass on. Among the nuggets of advice were valuing friendship and honesty, appreciating freedom, doing good for your community, working for what you believe in, reserving judgment and demonstrating perseverance.

Emma’s proud grandfather Paul, whose father, Donald Williamson, also served in the Second World War, covered the costs of publishing the book. Copies have been given by the family to the libraries at 115 schools within the Grand Erie and Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic district school boards. Several copies also were donated to the library at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton where Williamson is a Grade 12 student.

Emma’s book was introduced by Brantford-Brant MP Phil McColeman on Monday in the House of Commons.

“She’s very determined and works incredibly hard,” Kerina said of her daughter. “She has always been creative and expressive. It’s just how she’s wired.

“She said to me, ‘This needs to be done. Let’s do it.’”

Emma, whose father is Duff Williamson, is an alpine ski racer on the Ontario Ski Team and may take a year off to compete after she graduates high school. She then plans to study English and film.

Books are for sale for $20, with proceeds going to support the soldiers of the 56th Field Artillery Regiment and veteran charities. They can be purchased through lessonsfromsoldiersandveterans@gmail.com

“Soldiers and veterans,” Emma says in the preface of her book, “I promise that your voice will never be forgotten, your sacrifices never ignored and your bravery never overlooked. You will be remembered forever.”

mruby@postmedia.com





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