My grandfather’s commitment to Canada meant he put his life on the line. My commitment is to preserve those memories so the stories are not forgotten.

As we march toward Canada’s 150th birthday, I have been delving deeper into my family history to explore the Broughton contribution to the country.

The trunk my father lugged around for the better part of 50 years is revealing some intimate family moments. It’s not only packed with his mementos but also those of his father. I am starting to understand the weight of what that trunk meant to my dad. I am honoured to be able to explore and reveal some of the stories behind these long-forgotten family heirlooms.

One of the most cherished objects is my grandfather’s bar of First and Second World War medals, the most prized of those is his Distinguished Conduct Medal. It is second only to the Victoria Cross awarded to non-commissioned officers.

A deep dive into Google produced an article in the London Gazette from Oct. 18, 1918, detailing my grandfather’s “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. It explains how his gun was hit by “heavy enemy barrage” and “put out of action”. Through my grandfather’s “fine example of coolness he maintained the morale of the gun crew and made it possible to maintain the service of the gun at a critical period.”

I couldn’t be prouder and only hope those genes have been passed down to me and, further, to my son.

The medal itself is heavy like an old Canadian silver dollar. Imprinted on the side is my grandfather’s name, rank and serial number as well as battalion number and date of battle. On the front is an image of King George V uncrowned and in a Field Marshal’s uniform. The legend has his name and “REX ET IND: IMP”, which means “by the grace of God” in Latin.

There are two other medals from the First World War: The British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal 1914-1919. The legend on the back of the Victory Medal declares: The Great War for Civilization. In retrospect, I find that a curious declaration. The battlegrounds for civilization look dramatically different today as we face climate change and the rise of nationalism on a global scale.

Sleuthing through my family history, which include Following In My Grandfather’s Footsteps, is more than just an exercise in historical preservation. I hope to get a better understanding of myself and who I am. I will never be tested in the life-or-death situations my grandfather faced, nor would he want me to be. However, I aspire to the mettle and moxie he exhibited in his life, if not through battle then through compassion for my fellow Canadians.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from those who committed to the nation of Canada through its first 150 years. My aim is to continue that commitment by preserving those stories as we embark on the next 150 years.