Tom Slater’s voice gets a bit shaky as he recounts the hours spent speaking with the families of Sarnia’s fallen war heroes.
“We can only imagine how that must have felt — waiting, worrying every day. Not knowing if they were coming home,” he says with emotion.
Like Mary Moulden, who recalls her mother Cora, sitting in the living room on Lydia street, waiting for son Buster to come home. Though his body was never found, the 18-year-old was the first of many Sarnians to die in WWII.
Or the profound grief of Elaine Cushley, whose son William, of Port Lambton, was killed Sept. 3, 2006 in Afghanistan.
“I miss cuddling him,” she recalled. “Every time I close my eyes, I see his face and he is always smiling.”
The stories of Buster and William are among two dozen featured in a new book, “Valour Remembered: Sarnia-Lambton War Stories,” co-authored by Slater, and fellow retired teacher Tom St. Amand.
Their work is the result of three years of researching, interviewing, editing and compiling the mostly untold stories of the young men in Sarnia who served — from the Great War and World War II, to the Korean War and the War in Afghanistan.
Their efforts are entirely volunteer-based, with help from editors Cathy St. Amand, Patrick St. Amand and Lou Giancarlo, cover art by Bennett Slater, and funding from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #62 and the Sarnia Historical Society for printing.
Shorter versions of some of the stories were previously published in The Sarnia Journal’s Sarnia Remembers editions, a special feature launched as a result of Slater’s War Remembrance Project, a compilation of Sarnia’s military history and never-before-documented record of Sarnians who died in service.
“We wanted to tell their full stories… give an accurate presentation of who these people were,” said Slater.
Both men say it was their journey with the families that left a lasting impression.
“The families were all in, and they all had the final say,” said St. Amand. “They were so forthcoming… we got the sense that we knew these guys.
“We just want to honour their heroism, and do justice to them.”
A book launch for Valour Remembered will be held at Sarnia’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #62 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Details are available here.