PICTOU — A retired educator who grew up in New Glasgow returned to Pictou County to stress freedom’s elusiveness during the Black Battalion Memorial Tribute.
Margaret States shared her thoughts during the service on Saturday at the 26th commemoration ceremony for members of the No. 2 Battalion Construction Engineers that takes place each year at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre.
Now retired and living in Aylmer, Que., she graduated from New Glasgow High School in 1969 and was an educator for 40 years.
States examined the history of the battalion and shared the military service and personal trauma that affected her father, Private Arthur Lloyd States.
Lloyd States was 16 years old when he entered military service on April 26, 1943, one day after his 20th birthday she said.
He was an integral part of the Allied campaign in Italy later that year, transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment in 1944 and was part of the mission to relieve Holland in 1945.
He faced charges and imprisonment before his release and return to New Glasgow in 1946 and never fully recovered from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder until his death in 1996.
He received two highly regarded awards posthumously: the Jean Augustine DreamKeepers Life Achievement Award in 2018 and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal that was awarded to members of the U.S.-Canadian First Special Service Forces called the Devil’s Brigade.
She told those attending, when they think of those honours “you will also remember that what we call freedom is not free. It is really paid for by others in ways that are priceless and unspoken.”
States described the dedication members of the No. 2 Battalion demonstrated during the First World War and their desire to serve their country after the Battalion was formed in Pictou in 1916 and after their voyage to France in 1917.
“They were proud to be away from their families for the duration of the war,” she said. “By 1919 they returned home without fanfare. We can only imagine their feeling of rejection.”
That indifference ended in November 1982 when the idea was conceived to conduct the first of the 26 services in their honour.
The service included an audio presentation of a Black Soldier’s Lament authored by Capt. (ret’d) George Borden, who is also originally from New Glasgow.
Emcee, RCMP Sgt. Craig Smith read the honour roll of No. 2 Battalion members who died during active service.
From left are emcee RCMP Sgt. Craig Smith with guest speaker Margaret States and her siblings Crystal States, Sadie States and Phillip States beside the two awards their father, Private Arthur Lloyd States, received posthumously. (Goodwin photo)