"D Day has entered the national conscience as the beginning of the end of World War 2. A million young men invaded Normandy to fight for everything we hold dear today. With 70 years passing World War 2 is slowly passing from living memory and the once young men who won us our freedom now need mobility aids to retain their own freedom."
Bill Optiz was a stoker on a Royal Canadian Navy mine clearance ship and had a grandstand view of the invasion. In the wee hours of the 6th June 1944, Optizs ship searched for and cut loose mines obstructing the invasion fleet. Optiz would go on to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of the landings still traumatised by what he saw that day.
Reporting on Bills experiences their local newspaper The St. Albert Gazette noted "They are remarkably agile for their age and live in their own townhouse/condo in Erin Ridge. Still, they have enlisted help for this trip, the first time they have done so their daughter and son in law will go with them. Marge has not been well in recent months and Bill needs a stair-lift now to get to and from to his basement."
The business of warfare is not quiet or unobtrusive. Optiz still remembers the deafening roar of heavy weapons firing and planes lighting up the sky when hit by enemy fire and exploding. Later in the war, his ship hit a mine which exploded, throwing the ship into the air. Optiz was down in the engine room, an utterly terrifying place to be when there is an underwater explosion so close by.
Such memories, and others gathered from his four years of service have marked him for life. With nightmares every night and a complete inability to forget the scenes he witnessed in his late teens at war though not a recognised illness in the 1940s Optiz reckons that he has posttraumatic stress disorder from his experiences. He says of his return to Normandy "I have to go back. I go back so I can forget".
Those who performed sometimes superhuman feats to bring about peace and security in the world have gone from being fit and strong teenagers and twenty-somethings, to people who need support in getting around. Optiz once a fit young stoker in the Royal Canadian Navy now needs mobility aids to get about. Visiting Normandy he used a wheelchair and walking stick. At home he uses a stairlift to access his basement.
Such mobility aids enable people to retain their freedom and ability to access everywhere in their home they could prior to needing mobility aids. Acorn have been supplying stairlifts for the last thirty years and have supplied over 100 000 customers worldwide allowing those who fought for our freedom to have complete freedom within their own homes.