Couple first to salute fallen relative

By Geoff Lee

November 13, 2017 8:50 AM

Dawn McKenzie-Weinhandl and her husband Rick from Lloydminster visited the gravesite of her great uncle, Lance Corporal George Clifton McKenzie, MM this year, at the Dominion Cemetery in France.  The P.E.I. First World War veteran was killed in the Battle of Arras, France on Sept. 2. 1918 at the age of 22. Dawn learned about her great uncle with help from her friend Susan Brazeau, a genealogist. Dawn and Rick are First World War and Second World War history buffs who toured some battlefronts during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge that her great uncle also fought in. SUPPLIED PHOTO

After 99 years, Lance Corporal George Clifton McKenzie accepted a respectful salute at his gravesite in the Dominion Cemetery in France by new-found relatives from Lloydminster.
It was a moving and humbling experience for Dawn McKenzie-Weinhandl especially to touch the gravestone of her great uncle, who was killed in action on Sept. 2, 1918 in the Battle of Arras on the Western Front.
“I was the first relative to ever visit George since his death 99 years ago,” she said.
She noted the serene peace that was evident at the cemetery was very comforting.
“When I touched his grave and I prayed to God about him and his sacrifice, it was so moving—and to see all those other young men’s graves line after line – many of them as young as George was or younger,” said Dawn.
“He gave the ultimate sacrifice so today we can live in freedom.”
Dawn and her husband Rick found the grave in France three days after the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 2017, celebrated in France by thousands of Canadian tourists like them as a nation building victory for our troops.
Vimy was one of many battles Lance CPL McKenzie from Prince Edward Island fought in, including the second battle of Ypres, Amiens, Hill 70, and Arras.
Following his death, he was awarded the Military Medal of Honour (MM) for devotion and bravery while under fire.
No doubt, his medals and honours in war brought a tear to Dawn and Rick, who learned about his heroics after tracing Dawn’s family’s genealogy and her Scottish McKenzie clan.
They were helped by a friend, Susan Brazeau, a genealogist who put Lance CPL McKenzie on their radar directing them first to a fact-finding tour to Scotland.
When Dawn learned her great uncle died in France, they booked a vacation to Europe this year from March 30-April 14.
It helped the couple share a strong interest in the history of the first and second world wars and Dawn’s family tree.
“My husband has always wanted to go to France to see where these battles were, so we did the research and went to Ypres,” said Dawn.
“We travelled through several small French villages in search of George’s last resting place. It was wonderful to see many Canadian flags hanging from the windows and doors of many houses in the village.”
She said it was interesting to note her great uncle was buried in the middle of a field of grain, a short distance from the village where the Sept. 2 battle he died in took place.
Ironically, he enlisted for service with the 105th Overseas Battalion on Nov. 11, 1916, one day after his 20th birthday.
“It’s sad to think he died 10 weeks before the war ended on Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1918,” said Dawn.
“I am so proud of what a courageous young man he was.
“He never had the opportunity to get married and have children and he didn’t have the opportunity to carry on his name.”
She is pleased to know that her grandfather named one of his sons George after her great uncle.
With Remembrance Day just two days from now, Dawn is still discussing with other family members in the Greenstreet Sask. area how to honor this fallen soldier and ancestor they have come to admire.
“My family’s said I think we need to share what our family member has done to let other people know so they can be aware of the sacrifice that these young men made,” she said.
She said the willingness of her great uncle to give his life has blessed us with the ability to raise our families in a democracy.
“I always was very thankful to the men who fought to give us freedom, but I think what it brought home to me was my great uncle at the age of 22 gave up his life,” she said.
“He will never be forgotten.”

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