70 years apart, navy lieutenants have more in common than they think

Jennifer Martin and David Howard had never met, but they share a bond few Canadians have experienced.

Both lieutenants in the navy, Jennifer Martin, 34, and David Howard, 99, compare their experiences

Jennifer Martin, 34, is currently serving in the navy as a lieutenant. David Howard, 99, served for five years during the Second World War in the same role. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Jennifer Martin and David Howard had never met, but they share a bond few Canadians have experienced.

Both Martin and Howard have served their country as lieutenants in the navy — Howard in the Second World War during the Battle of the Atlantic, and Martin, who is currently in the service, with her first tour deploying in 2009 to Afghanistan.

CBC Toronto brought the pair together to share their experiences, 70 years apart.

Howard enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1941. In 2015, he had his photo taken once again wearing the uniform he had custom tailored before deploying for the Second World War. (Submitted by David Howard)

Why did you choose the navy?

A lifelong sailor, Howard says the navy was a natural choice. He sailed with the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto, and most of his peers were joining the war effort.

"I felt I really had to go and help," said Howard. "Everybody had to pitch in, one way or another."

Howard enlisted in 1941, serving for five years through to the end of the war.

Martin's experience was quite different, joining the Canadian Armed Forces in 2004.

Jennifer Martin served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, working to recruit women for policing and border security in the region. (Submitted by Canadian Navy)

"I've always really been drawn to the ocean," said Martin.  "When I was in high school I saw an ad for the Navy and I thought, 'Maybe I could do that.'"

Martin didn't know anyone else who had enlisted, but made the choice to join the navy, despite her parents thinking it was just a phase.

Howard says he admires Martin's choice, given that the world wasn't in a major conflict when she chose to join.

But Martin thinks she was motivated by a similar urge to Howard's.

"There's this innate thing inside where you see the world in a different lens and you want to help people," she said.

Now versus then

Howard says he wasn't afraid sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, protecting merchant ships from German U-boats. Instead, he recalls feeling at home on the water.

David Howard on-board a corvette crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Submitted by David Howard)

"It was a marvelous life at sea," he said. Today, he doesn't think he'd be able to make the same choice, deploying to Afghanistan like Martin.

"I think he's being humble when he says the war now would be much more challenging," she said.

"The weapons have evolved and perhaps they've gotten bigger and more aggressive but fighting on the front lines in World War II or convoying vessels across an ocean is no less terrifying or no less dangerous."

Jennifer Martin greets schoolchildren while serving in Afghanistan. During her tour she managed to raise enough money to provide school supplies for 2,000 students. (Submitted by Canadian Navy)

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

What does Remembrance Day mean to these navy lieutenants?

CBC News Toronto

3 years ago
Two Canadian navy lieutenants, nearly 70 years apart, share their take on Remembrance Day. 2:19

When it comes to Remembrance Day, Martin and Howard experience it differently. Both of them have lost friends to war, but while Howard thinks back to sacrifices made even before he was alive in the First World War, Martin chooses to look to the present, and how far Canada has come.

"As much as it is a sombre experience … I really think Remembrance Day is a celebration. It's a time to celebrate what we have in Canada, who we are and what we have achieved."

"I generally feel sad," said Howard. He says he chooses to focus on men like Colonel John McCrae, author of the famed poem In Flanders Fields.

"I feel very emotional about that one. So, I wear this poppy with a lot of sympathy for those kinds of people."