By Eric Lam
Don Poland still remembers the day he found out his son died.
“There’s only one thing that any parent whose son or daughter is serving in the armed forces never ever wants to see, and that’s two guys in uniform at your front door. It only means one thing,” Poland said.
Cpl. Brent Donald Poland, a Ryerson image arts graduate and Don Poland’s eldest son, died in Afghanistan earlier this year.
“You just go totally numb. Shock, numbness, you can’t believe it. You don’t want to believe it,” he said.
“It’s one thing to lose a parent or grandparent, but losing a child is a tremendous hole in your heart.”
And while Remembrance Day has always been important for Poland, this year’s has been bittersweet.
“I think if you talk to any parents, every day is kind of a Remembrance Day. But anyone who has ever lost anybody, every year on Remembrance Day you think about that,” he said.
Brent Poland, who was 37, was killed when the LAV III armoured transport he was in drove over a roadside bomb west of Kandahar. Five other Canadian soldiers died in the transport too.
He was a member of Hotel Company in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Gagetown, N.B.
“He changed my understanding of Remembrance Day, made it Canadian,” said Alexandra Bal, an image arts professor who taught Poland. “In my eyes he was too young to die.”
Bal, a mother of two young children, felt most deeply for Poland’s mother Pat. “I can’t imagine what this woman is going through,” she said, tearing up. “Losing a child must be one of the most devastating things ever because it’s so wrong.”
Pat Poland was recently asked by the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to be the Silver Cross mother for the area, Don said.
The Polands still live in the tiny village of Camlachie, Ont., just outside Sarnia, where their son was born and went to school.
Poland played hockey and was active with the scouts growing up. He developed a passion for world politics and history.
Don and Pat Poland remember their son as a “very strong patriot who loved his country, loved his family.”
The Camlachie community recently erected a memorial to honour Brent Poland.
“It’s not the honour one really wants, but it makes you feel good your community is behind you and supporting you,” Poland said.