A Newfoundland soldier's story: Forgotten no longer
How a century-old wrong was righted by a present-day member of the military from Sunnyside
This is a story about two soldiers from Sunnyside — one who died almost a century ago and was never properly recognized for his sacrifice, and another who decided to right that wrong.
Pte. John Charles Piercey was 18 when he sailed with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to Scotland in 1915.
In her home in Norman's Cove, Piercey's niece Yvonne Warren has mementos of her uncle's life; his medals and a picture of him with her mother.
She was unaware that his name wasn't mentioned on a war memorial anywhere.
"I thought that his name was there but apparently it wasn’t," Warren said.
She found out from another soldier from Sunnyside, Cpl. Roger Snook.
Snook served in Afghanistan. He's in the Reserves now, a Canadian Ranger based in Gander.
Two years ago, Snook was attending the Memorial Day service in his hometown when someone told him about the forgotten veteran.
"I said, ‘Gosh, we’ve got to do something for him, there’s got to be some way to remember this man,’ " said Kevin Stacey of the Sunnyside Heritage Committee.
"So Roger was the man I turned to."
Snook thought the situation just wasn’t right. He wanted to do something about it.
"It even came to the point that I had a dream about him on the battlefield," Snook said.
"And it was almost like he was saying, 'Now that you know about me, don’t let them forget about me.' "
The next day, Snook began his research. He tracked down Piercey's relatives, and found medical records that show Piercey should have never been on the battlefield that day.
He was being treated in a field hospital for trench foot. Days before the big battle he begged to go back to his unit.
Piercey made it past the Danger Tree, but was killed by a hand grenade thrown by a German soldier.
Letter from soldier’s father
On July 17, 1916, Piercey’s father wrote him a letter, not knowing that his son had already died.
"We are hoping that this terrible war will soon be over, as we feel it keenly," the letter read.
"God is good and I trust, my son, he will bring you through safe home again."
Snook was "consumed" with making sure another July 1st ceremony didn’t go by without Piercey’s name on the monument.
He doesn't like to take credit for what happened next. Snook says the new Sunnyside war memorial — with, for the first time, a marker for First World War veterans like Piercey — was a community effort.
But there's no doubt about Snook's efforts. He helped find money from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the town for the new memorial.
A year after he first heard about Piercey, last year's Memorial Day ceremony was held with the new monument in place.
"It’s the most satisfying thing I've ever worked on," said Calvin Lockyer of the Sunnyside Heritage Committee.
"It gave me a great sense of pride to know that a town was totally behind recognizing the tremendous sacrifice that these people made."
John Charles Piercey's relatives from all over the country were in the crowd.
"I thought it was a beautiful ceremony," Warren said. "It was absolutely beautiful and what really impressed me, when I saw the location of the monument, it was directly across the bay from where he grew up, where he was born ... I thought it was so fitting."
Piercey is a soldier forgotten no longer.
"Now his name is forever embedded on the stone behind me and everyone knows who he is," Snook said.
"Before, nobody knew who he was. Now everybody knows who he is. And that’s a great thing."