WOLFVILLE – A teen with connections to the First and Second World War will soon arrive in Belgium as a youth delegate in honour of the first war’s centennial.
Wolfville resident Nicole Grass is one of four Encounters with Canada alumni delegates chosen from across Canada and will arrive in Europe on her seventeenth birthday.
Her great-grandfather, Clayton McCully, served as part of 85th Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders during the First World War. Her grandfather, Victor Mackay, served in the navy during the Second World War – all of which means Grass has always felt a strong connection to Remembrance Day.
“Taking part in [these] ceremonies is something I do every year. This trip will have lots of heavy material – we’re going to see battlefields and cemeteries – but I’m honoured and excited to be part of it,” she said.
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The trip will take Grass and her fellow delegates from Montreal to Brussels on Nov. 8 and will explore First World War battlefields, cemeteries, monuments and museums near Ypres and Mons.
Each delegate has also been assigned a cemetery and fallen soldier from the war to research. As part of the project, Grass will be looking into Albert Frederick Major, a soldier originally from Halifax.
And once she returns, she said she aims to share his story with her peers at school and in her community.
“I feel responsible for telling Albert’s story and putting together a great project to share abroad. I want to make sure his story is told,” she said.
It’s all a lot to take in for the teen, who never expected to be chosen in the first place. After taking part in an Encounters with Canada forum, Grass applied to an alumni trip to Belgium. Since she doesn’t speak French fluently – something that can help delegates get selected – she had no expectations of being selected.
“I knew it was a longshot but decided to apply anyway. Next thing I know, I’m getting a phone call telling me I’m going to Belgium. My chances were low, so I was amazed,” she said.
Grass said she thinks her proximity to Port Williams may have also helped her case. The town is where George Price, the last Commonwealth soldier to die before Armistice, lived before the war.
Grass and the other delegates will be attending a ceremony at St Symphorien Cemetery in Mons, where Price is buried, and will attend a sound and light performance told through his perspective.
Once she is home, Grass will once again take time to remember her relatives, and other community members who’ve been touched by war.
“It’s really important to honour those who gave their life and think about the impact – how different the world might be – millions of people who died,” she said.