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?It was beautiful, I?ve never seen anything like it?

BY JASON THOMPSON Second World War veteran Gerald ?Chic? Rouleau was stunned as he stood in a cemetery in Goesbeck, Holland, as millions of bright red poppies dropped from a helicopter flying overhead fluttered onto the cemetery grounds.
BY JASON THOMPSON

Second World War veteran Gerald ?Chic? Rouleau was stunned as he stood in a cemetery in Goesbeck, Holland, as millions of bright red poppies dropped from a helicopter flying overhead fluttered onto the cemetery grounds.

WWII veteran Gerald Rouleau and Peter Hunter, a former
British paratrooper, both attended the VE Day celebrations in Holland.
?That was something,? were the only words Rouleau could muster about the sea of red that surrounded his fellow veterans and himself.

The 82-year-old was in Holland to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day. It was for the first time he had been in Holland since he helped liberate the country from Nazi rule in the 1940s.

?I was really surprised to see how nice and beautiful it was,? says Rouleau, who was in Holland from May 1 to May 9 with his wife, Muriel.

?Things had changed, it was not the way I?d seen it during the war.?

Rouleau?s second tour of Holland was filled with sightseeing as well as visits to many graveyards and parade marches along streets lined with
excited Dutch citizens, celebrating their freedom in honour of their liberators and the 7,600 Canadians who gave their lives.

Although the weather was terrible-it rained every day of his trip but one-that didn?t stop the Dutch from turning out to the parades and celebrations
held across the country, says Rouleau.

?It was beautiful, I?ve never seen anything like it,? recalls Rouleau of the parade in Apeldoorn. Little kids who could barely walk or talk were yelling their thanks and giving their love to the Canadian veterans in the pouring rain and hail.

The parade and the party was much bigger than the one in Apeldoorn in 1945 when the VE Day celebrations broke out, said Rouleau.

Hoping to meet up with some of his old comrades, Rouleau wasn?t disappointed as he encountered three members of his regiment, the 48th Highlanders of Toronto during the celebrations. All were treated like royalty by their hosts.

At one point on the trip, after finishing a meal, Rouleau and his wife went to pay the bill only to find out it was already paid by another patron dining at the restaurant.

Hugs, kisses and lots of beer made up the usual treatment for Canuck veterans in every town they visited, said Rouleau.

The only time the celebration halted was May 5 at 8 pm sharp for two minutes. All activity came to a stop in remembrance of the soldiers who died during the war.

?The whole country stops for two minutes,? said Muriel. ?You don?t breathe, you don?t talk, you don?t walk, you don?t drive, you don?t do anything.?

Rouleau returned from Holland after the war without injury, but he wasn?t as lucky this time. On his way to board a boat that would cruise across
the Rhine River into Germany, Rouleau lost his footing on some stairs and fell to the ground. He got a minor cut on his head.

When Rouleau and his wife recounted the story to their son who picked them up from Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

His son laughed and joked that the Nazis couldn?t get Rouleau during the war, so they?re trying to get him now.

Peter Hunter, 68, a former British paratrooper, was not a veteran of the war, but went to Holland for the celebrations anyway.

?I was told it would be the last celebration for the veterans because they are all up in age...I wanted to be there with the old-timers,? he said.



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