Rocco Speranza’s Walk to Remember

Montreal - Thursday, August 23, 2018

For 16 consecutive days this summer, English Montreal School Board Spiritual and Community Animator Rocco Speranza walked over 300 kilometers through a very hot and humid Montreal to mark World War II’s Operation Husky and The Italian Campaign.

Recalling his walk, Rocco wrote the following:

“I decided to walk in the memory of all the fallen, it did not matter which side they were on. The young men who fell in the battle in Sicily during 1943 were sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands. Family is family; pain is pain; a loss is a loss. Along the way, I stopped at Royal Canadian Legion branches and met with veterans to discuss these historical moments.

“I have been fortunate to work with many veterans and active Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel over the last 30 years. They have visited schools and aided me in educating our students on peace, unity, tolerance and remembrance. I walked in their memory and to honour veterans like George King Mann, James John Whitehall, Alexander Hall, John Franken, Fernand Trepanier, Bernard Firestone and many more. They were all great, brave men.

“I also walked in the memory of my Italian great uncles who served in World War II and were part of this campaign. Unfortunately, one, who served as a pilot with the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica Italiana), did not return home.

“Growing up, no one really spoke of World War II at home. I would see the pictures of relatives in their military uniforms, but few stories were shared. We learned that war is not a good thing, that it causes poverty, sadness, hatred and hurt.

“As I aged, I learned more. I believed that many of them were embarrassed or ashamed for being on the Axis at one point.  One of my uncles once shared with me: ‘We did what we did because we followed our leaders, we believed what we were told by them, but eventually we discovered something was not right and a switch was made.’

“It was lonely to walk at 4 in the morning, but it was a nice way to remember the fallen soldiers. On occasion, my son and daughter would walk with me, which I appreciated. I now have an idea of how isolated CAF members must have felt being away from their families as they marched and fought from village to village in the name of peace and democracy. My walk took place at the same time as a group of Canadians in Sicily retraced the steps taken by our brave soldiers during World War II.

“This walk is part of many projects, lessons and ceremonies that will take place within my schools. I, along with members from the Vincent Massey Collegiate Spiritual and Community Animation Remembrance Committee, were part of a wonderful team that put together trilingual lessons plans on Operation Husky. These lessons plans are a way to further educate our students and youth about a part of Canadian history that is not found in many textbooks.”

Mr. Speranza would like to extend a special thank you to author Richard Martin for putting together the lessons,  EMSB  Social Sciences Consultant Tino Bordonaro   for his review of the content, Vincent Massey Collegiate History Teacher Michael  Zoes,and Sig Giovanna Giordano  Presidente Comitato degli Italiani all’Estero for the Italian translations.”

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