A World War Two veteran from Steinbach, formerly of Sprague, still clearly remembers his experiences in battle more than 70 years ago. John Owczar is now 93 years old. He enlisted in the army at the age of 20 and became a tank driver. Owczar saw action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He says he lost many comrades in battle and counts himself blessed to have survived the war. But Owczar adds there were a number of close calls and relates one such story
"At night we'd dig a trench under the tank so we could sleep under the tank all night. One morning I woke up and there was a great big mortar shell right by the tank, right beside me, that never exploded."
Owczarrecalls another time when a fellow soldier named Owens told him that, when the war was over, they would celebrate together in Toronto. Owens would die a short time later from a bullet through the heart. And then there was the time Owczar's tank would not start.
"I was supposed to go on patrol with this officer and the tank wouldn't work. So the officer took the other tank and they went on patrol. Then, over the radio, I hear that the tank hit a mine and the driver was killed."
He also relates how the food rations they had were very tiresome.
"We had corned beef and hardtack, that's all we had. Then in the mornings we had canned eggs and canned bacon. I used to trade a can of corned beef to the French people for a couple of eggs. I'd had so much corned beef I was sick of it."
In remembering the war, Owczar adds that he has seen a lot of things he doesn't want to mention. He urges us to pause and reflect on Remembrance Day, to remember the men who died and the sacrifices made by so many for our freedom.