Dying wish: Vet leaves D-Day helmet to man who found it in surplus store
A Second World War veteran has left behind a special gift for a young New Brunswick man who reached out to him.
George Johnston fought in the Second World War as part of the North Shore Regiment’s B Company. He served from 1940 to 1946 and was one of thousands of Canadians who stormed Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The helmet Johnston wore that day, which had protected him in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, was bent during battle and replaced with a new one.
Sometime after the war was over, Johnston lost his D-Day helmet, but he was reunited with the helmet last year, thanks to Jordan Chiasson, a history buff with a deep interest in war memorabilia.
Chiasson bought the helmet at an Army surplus store in Moncton in August 2013 and noticed an Army ID number inside.
He decided to track down the owner of the helmet and, after a lot of work, he found Johnston and delivered the helmet to him at his Norton, N.B. home in February 2014.
Over time, a friendship formed between them, and when Johnston passed away last month at the age of 94, Chiasson attended his funeral.
“Right at the end, the last five minutes of the funeral, they presented the helmet to me,” says Chiasson. “I was crying, everyone was crying.”
Annie, Johnston’s widow, says her husband’s dying wish was to return the helmet to Chiasson.
“He took a great liking to Jordan. He didn’t figure any of his children would take care of it, and he thought it would be taken care of with Jordan,” she says.
The helmet, along with some medals similar to the ones earned by Johnston and some photos of the war veteran, now sits on a shelf Chiasson has devoted to Johnston’s legacy.
Al Johnston, past president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Moncton, says he is impressed a 22-year-old would put so much time and effort into finding the owner of the helmet, and honouring his memory once he passed away.
“And for the family to give it back to him, when George Johnston unfortunately passed away last month, it really completes the circle,” he says.’
For Chiasson, that circle includes continuing to learn from the legacy of soldiers like George Johnston.
“For everyone in Canada to make our nation strive, it’s remarkable to me, the courage and bravery that they went through,” says Chiasson.
“It tugs on my heart a little bit, I guess is what I could say.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell