© Guardian photo by Jim Day
Second World War veteran Carl Willms says he was quite moved to receive a special certificate from students thanking him for his service to the country.
Carl Willms is quick to dismiss the error.
The spelling of his last name on a certificate has only one ‘l’ rather than the two that it should.
He is not slighted. Not in the least.
The thought is what matters to Willms. And the thought — a truly heartwarming gesture in the mind of this 96-year-old Second World War veteran — really struck home.
Willms, who served in the Canadian Air Force for almost 32 years, was deeply touched to be among the 13 veterans residing at Whisperwood Villa in Charlottetown who were thanked Monday for their service to the country.
Grade 7 students from Birchwood Intermediate School delivered the big thank you.
To the strains of a bagpipe and under a light fall of snow, 22 students marched in a candlelight vigil to Whisperwood, a nursing care and retirement facility in the capital city.
The students took part in a ceremony that included the presentation of a special Gratitude Rock Garden that contained a personal message of remembrance from each student.
Near the end of the ceremony, one student after another was given the honour to present a certificate to the veterans living at Whisperwood.
Willms simply welled up when speaking of being on the receiving end of a certificate that reads: Birchwood Junior High School Thanks You For Our Freedom And A Safe Education.
“It’s really, really quite moving,’’ he said, his voice cracking, his eyes watering.
“It’s really nice to help keep up the remembrance.’’
Willms says the certificate, as well as the entire ceremony Monday, means a great deal to him.
He commends all of the students for their participation. He is pleased to see youths take an interest in the veterans.
“I’d like them to really understand what was going on in those terrible days and keep remembering them (veterans),’’ he adds.
Willms plans to display his certificate with pride in his bedroom “in memory of this wonderful occasion’’.
Melanie Myers, the Birchwood Grade 7 teacher behind the remembrance project called Operation Gratitude, says she will get Willms a new certificate sporting the correct spelling of his name.
She was touched to learn just how much the certificate meant to the veteran.
“As a class, we looked at the ways we can remember . . . but we wanted to make this time a little bit more special,’’ says Myers.
“The certificate was just to say thank you . . . and to say that we’re taking this time to honour them.’’
Matthew Brown, 12, says Operation Gratitude has given him a greater appreciation for veterans like Willms.
“I just feel grateful for what they did to protect our nation,’’ he says.