It didn’t take long for Andee Weatherby to realize just what she was doing.
The 17-year-old Tatamagouche girl was one of 26 youths from across the country to join more than 100 veterans on a visit to Vimy Ridge in France last month.
“One of the veterans, on the very first day, said to me, ‘please don’t forget us, please pass on the torch.’ That, for me, was so emotional,” she said. “To me, as youth, we are forgetting who fought, we’re forgetting the wars, and we’re not being taught as much about it anymore. That’s when I realized exactly what I was doing there.”
From April 3 to 12, Weatherby participated in the trip through Veterans Affairs . She was chosen out of the blue, after participating with Encounters with Canada last year.
When she first got her phone call in January saying she was selected to go, she thought it was a scam.
“When I realized it wasn’t, I still didn’t believe it was real. You know, small town Tatamagouche – who gets chosen to go? It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
The trip took the group to cemeteries, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, and front-line trenches, all of which was life-changing for the teenager.
“We went to the actual battlefield and walked through the trenches soldiers walked through. It will never happen again. Walking another person’s footsteps and visiting the cemeteries, you’re realizing exactly what happened,” she said.
As part of the experience, Weatherby and the other youth had to make a presentation on someone – someone they knew who fought in the war, or someone chosen for them. It just so happened Weatherby’s great-great-grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge.
“It was hard to find information about it, but I did,” she said of Lishman Fulton McCalm. “He was injured at Vimy Ridge – he suffered a shot to the head, and a shot to the right leg.”
Weatherby said he was sent to England for medical treatment and survived, returning to Vimy Ridge to continue the fight.
And while she enjoyed the sites, the experience, and meeting fellow youth, it was also meeting the veterans that left a huge impression on Weatherby.
“It’s not to say I didn’t have respect for them before, but meeting them and hearing them talk, learning what they went through…I have a different kind of respect for them now.”