D-Day veteran’s special gift to a 22- year-old history buff

It is often claimed that ‘once a soldier, always a soldier’.  Those who offer themselves to die for a higher cause never lose that sense of love and sacrifice, even on their deathbed. 

A World War II veteran, before his death, asked his family to give away his most precious and loyal friend to a 22-year-old man. That friend was the helmet that he had worn during countless battles in World War II.

In both the First and Second World Wars, soldiers had to endure adverse conditions and fierce opposition from the enemy. They lost comrades one after another, and the barrier between life and death – which seems very solid in peacetime – simply vanishes. In such conditions, soldiers have two friends who would never leave them, their clothing and their gun, and most importantly their helmet. Soldiers get attached to their helmets because in a battlefield when fire is raining and debris flying here and there, a helmet protects a soldier and never leaves him alone.

George Johnston fought in World War II with North Shore Regiment’s B Company. He served in the Army for six long years (1940–1946), and was amongst thousands of Canadian troops who attacked Juno Beach in Normandy in 1944. The helmet that Johnston wore on the day of the invasion of Juno beach, and had worn throughout the World War II in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium had, over time, become his best friend. Due to intense fighting in Normandy, the helmet got bent. Johnston had a very special attachment to that helmet and he kept it safe for a while after the war. But he lost the helmet somewhere and could not find it again.

He was reunited with his long lost friend, when he came to hear about a young man who had bought the helmet from an army surplus store. The young man, named Jordan Chiasson, traced it back to Johnston with the help of the army ID number inside the helmet. After some phone calls and bit of a travelling, Chiasson managed to meet George Johnston, and gave him back his old pal, his war helmet.

Johnston was extremely delighted on finding his helmet after more than 65 years, and was thankful to Chiasson for going out of his way to give him back his beloved helmet.

Both met quite a few times after that and developed a very close friendly relationship. Chiasson loves history and Johnston had a lot of that to offer. Their friendship came to an abrupt end when Johnston passed away last month at the age of 94, the Atlantic reports.

But as the saying goes, ‘once a soldier, always a soldier’: Johnston didn’t stop caring and sacrificing even after his death. He told his family members to present his dear helmet as a gift to Chiasson, along with some of his WWII medals. Johnston’s family presented these gifts to Chiasson at the end of the funeral. Chiasson felt humbled and considers himself honoured after receiving these gifts from a real soldier and war hero.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE