Second World War veteran George Nashen, 96, will receive a special national assembly medal from David Birnbaum, the MNA for the riding of D’Arcy-McGee, at a ceremony in June.
Nashen will be honoured in the name of all of the men and women who served the cause of freedom in that conflict. Nashen, who lives in Côte-St-Luc, Que., is one of the few surviving Jewish-Canadian war veterans.
In announcing the move, Birnbaum explained that he wanted recognize the contribution of our Second World War veterans while it was still possible. “It struck me at our last Remembrance Day ceremonies in the riding how sadly close we are to a time when no first-hand witnesses to the Second World War will be with us to remember, or to be honoured for their sacrifice, courage and legacy in saving our fundamental freedoms here in Quebec, in all of Canada and around the world,” he said.
“Furthermore, this riding that I serve is home to one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors and their families in Canada. The obligation of remembrance is deeply felt here and this medal is one further way of expressing that obligation.”
Nashen is a long-time community volunteer and former clothing manufacturer who held the rank of sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the war, Nashen lost a number of dear friends and has always made it his duty to share his experience, particularly with young people.
“I was 19 when I enlisted,” said Nashen, a Baron Byng High School graduate, “and I wasn’t that worldly. I didn’t understand much about politics. By 1938, with the rise of Hitler, the terrible threat to the free world started to become clear. I thought, I have to go over.…
“It’s important for young people to learn about the atrocities and the sacrifices of the Second World War. Do they really know the seriousness of war, the feeling of daily life, when you get issued a helmet and a gas mask to make sure you survive the day?”
In 1943, Nashen was stationed in London. “I went over on the Queen Mary,” he recalled. “We were 26,000 enlisted men and women; the ship normally carried only 2,000.
“It was a humbling and scary few years. I remember the rumbling of incoming and outgoing bombers overhead, every night in London. The stakes were enormous, and the freedoms we take for granted today were in peril back then. That should never be forgotten.”
Nashen expressed his appreciation for the medal, but stressed that he would only accept the honour in the name of all the veterans.
Each spring, Birnbaum bestows three D’Arcy-McGee national assembly citizenship medals upon individuals chosen for their community contributions by a three-member jury. Nashen will formally receive his medal at that ceremony, which will be held on June 1. The names of all the medal winners become part of the permanent national assembly record and are noted in perpetuity on its official website.