Jim Macdonald’s journey is a credit to the community 

D-Day veteran going back for 60th anniversary celebrations with help of Pemberton

Jim Macdonald’s journey back to Europe for the 60 th anniversary of the D-Day landings is an inspiring personal story but even Macdonald admitted the most incredible thing about this experience so far has been the response from the Pemberton community.

The 84-year-old World War II veteran will be part of a group that attracts world-wide attention come June 6 th . But Macdonald would not have had this opportunity had it not been for more than $11,000 worth of donations from the people in his adopted town of Pemberton.

What makes that figure seem more amazing is that the biggest donation was just over $500, which means the majority of the money came from hundreds of local sources.

Debbie Carson from the Pemberton Legion Hall has been fundraising for almost a decade, but she maintains that raising funds for Macdonald’s trip was one of the easiest things she has ever done.

"I was part of the committee that helped raise money for the trip… and the response from the community just blew me away," Carson said.

"The whole thing made me proud and really warmed my heart that people still remember (WWII).

"It’s a testament to the people for sure; there’s no way that man wasn’t going on this trip."

Carson said Macdonald’s trip generated interest from the moment the idea was formulated at the Legion Hall’s last annual general meeting.

"I have to say that it was the easiest fundraiser I’ve ever done in my life, drop dead simple," she said.

"Ever since the first article hit the paper we’ve had responses from everywhere, including from back east."

O’Carson said the Legion and Macdonald had received some cheques and lots of trinkets from families of other veterans.

"He’s been getting lots of mementoes from people to pass out when he gets over there.

"One person forwarded a handmade cross to take with him and some other small things to put in graveyards.

"There’s been people sending cheques as well.

"I wish there were others (veterans) we could send, but sadly many of them have passed on or are not well enough to do the trip."

Public relations officer for the Pemberton Legion, Kelly Gilmore, said all she had to do was mention the trip and people would go "digging into their pockets for money."

"No way would I have thought that we would raise that amount of money but we did," Gilmore said.

"But I think a lot of it is because Jim does so much PR for himself; so many people know him."

Macdonald’s 12-day tour through Europe will include visits to Caen, Vimy Ridge, Dieppe and Juno Beach, all sites of battles that Canadians fought in during the First and Second World Wars.

The outpouring of support for Macdonald’s trip is an indication of how important remembering the war is to so many people, but it has also struck a chord with Macdonald’s own family.

Macdonald moved to Pemberton from Toronto to be closer to his daughters but, like many veterans, he rarely spoke about what happened in the war.

Macdonald was part of a radar unit that helped defend England during the Battle of Britain and then later in mainland Europe.

He recalled one of the most sobering times he had during the war came the day a German plane made it through the Allied defences and mistakenly dropped bombs on a school.

Macdonald then had to spend the next few days cleaning up what remained of the school.

One of Macdonald’s daughters, Allison, said she had been taking particular interest in the articles about her father because he never talked about the war at home.

"He used to talk about it with his contemporaries because they all served, but they never talked about it at home," Allison said.

"I didn’t know anything about the role he played.

"I’ve learned more from reading the articles."

Allison said she was not surprised that her father was going on this trip.

"It’s been great fun watching everything… at that auction (to raise money for the trip) watching all those women paying for a dance with my dad was amazing," she said.

Allison did concede Macdonald’s hectic schedule was a little concerning, but she was sure he’d survive.

"He’ll probably out live me the way he’s going."

The Pemberton Legion Hall will host a public barbecue this Sunday from 2 p.m. to celebrate Macdonald’s trip.

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