Stellar Acts of Kindness: It All Started with a Handshake
It all started with a handshake in August 2014 and me saying, “Thank you for serving our country.” The man’s hand I was shaking was 95 years old and he served in WWII as a Canadian Typhoon fighter pilot. His name was Jack Hilton. He was sharp as a tack, had a cheeky sense of humour and a very humble character.
Jack shared that he needed to find an RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) cap and was having a devil of a time finding one. I told Jack that I would find one for him. My brother, John, works in the forces as a Lieutenant Colonel in Cold Lake, Alberta so I called and told him about Jack and he directed me to a site I could get the hat from. I ended up buying the hat for Jack as part of my 49 Random Acts of Kindness since I was turning 49 that month. Jack said, “I just can’t get over how nice people are being to me.”
My brother John ended up calling me back shortly after because they were looking for a guest speaker at their upcoming Mess Dinner and he thought there wouldn’t be anyone better than Jack. When my brother called Jack, he graciously accepted the offer to speak and said that he hadn’t been at a Mess dinner since 1946! Jack made such a huge impression on the crowd that it was the first time in history that a guest speaker had been asked to speak longer. Apparently you could have heard a pin drop while Jack was speaking. Jack’s cheeky response to me was that he had so many women give him a hug after his talk that he had more perfume on him than the Channel #5 factory!
During a Remembrance Day service that same year, it came to my attention that some veterans were receiving The Legion of Honour medal from the French Government for their involvement during D-Day (the successful invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944). The Legion of Honour is the highest-ranking order and decoration in France.
Having had a few discussions with Jack, I knew that he had flown a few missions during D-Day and I inquired as to why he had not received a medal. He indicated that he didn’t know anything about it. I started making some calls and filling out some forms to nominate Jack. I met a few roadblocks in the process but persevered and hoped for the best. In April 2015, I received a letter from Nicolas Chapuis, Ambassador of France to Canada. The letter was a direct copy of the one sent to Jack. With a huge lump in my throat and tears of gratitude streaming down my cheeks, I read the first two paragraphs.
“By order of the President of the Republic of France, you have been awarded the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour, as of March 31, 2015. Please accept my sincere congratulations in this regard.
This distinction (the Legion of Honour is the highest national order of France) illustrates the profound gratitude that France would like to express to you. It is awarded in recognition of your personal involvement in the liberation of our country. Through you, France remembers the sacrifice of all of your compatriots who came to liberate French soil.”
A ceremony was held on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, where an official representative of France bestowed the medal on Jack. Jack could only invite 10 people to witness him receiving this medal and I am so honoured that I was one of those lucky people invited alongside his family and friends.
I had no idea of the events that would snowball from a very simple handshake to thank a veteran for my freedom. Although I know Jack’s humbleness does not agree with me calling him this, he is indeed a hero to me. May this story encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and shake the hand of a veteran to express your gratitude.
With humble gratitude to all who served and continue to serve our country,
Click on Susanne\’s name to read more and connect with her. A bit about Susanne…
Connect. Create. Rejuvenate.
Cancer. Burnout. Loss.
Susanne has survived all of these wake-up calls and she is passionate about helping others realize their dreams and tap into their creative potential NOW to live a fully abundant life.
Susanne Heaton grew up in the small village of Miami, Manitoba, Canada. It was in this rural setting and through her parents’ guidance at the family farm that Susanne learned the importance of:
1) community and respect for the environment;
2) helping others, especially those less fortunate than herself;
3) having a good sense of humour to help through even the darkest of times.
For over 11 years, Susanne worked in the corporate world doing team building, public speaking, negotiating, marketing and sales. She took a total leap of faith after her wake-up calls and left the corporate world to start her own company, Motivated by Nature. She is now an Award-Winning Author, Inspirational Speaker, Workshop Facilitator and FUNdraiser.
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