Korean War vet brings his story to life for cub scouts

The veteran has finished speaking. He’s told his life story. A young cub scout stands and asks a question.

“Mr. Lightstone, why should we care about all of this stuff,” he asked.

Capt. Lightstone got up from his chair and smiled at the young scout and said,       “Because in Canada we are very lucky to live in a country where we have freedom and privileges. … That’s why Remembrance Day is important.”

Mort Lightstone, 84, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 28 years and is now retired. In recent years, he has shared his war stories with school children and organizations, including this cub scout assembly the week before Remembrance Day at he United Church of Canada in North York.

When Lightstone arrived at the church, that evening, both cubs and scout leaders immediately greeted him. They began the evening with the singing of “O Canada.” The cubs and scout leaders then saluted Capt. Lightstone and sat down to listen to the retired veteran talk about his journey in the military.

Pointing to some old photographs during his presentation, he said he decided to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1951. At the age of 18, as a navigator, Lightstone got the news that the RCAF was deploying him overseas to the Korean War.

“My squadron and I were responsible for flying personnel and supplies to Korea and later I would fly wounded personnel … back home,” Lightstone said.

Capt. Lightstone is a longtime speaker for The Memory Project, an initiative that gives Canadian veterans the opportunity to share their stories in schools or community forums. Robert Merson has been a Willowdale, Ont., scout leader for three years. He believes inviting Lightstone to speak to his scout group will make them appreciate the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize the sacrifices of others that have come before us and to remember how we got here,” Merson said.

When Lightstone completed his talk, the Willowdale scouts applauded. Then they joined the veteran speaker for a group photograph. As parents and scout leaders took their pictures, all of the cubs saluted the RCAF veteran, which brought a smile to his face. For him, saluting has great significance in the military.

“Saluting has become (so) popular that people like that concept of greeting someone (that way),” he said. “And it is important to know how to salute in the military when taking an order.”