Eight-year-old Isla McCallum is an energetic young girl with a big smile, and Charlie Jefferson, 98, is a veteran of the Second World War. At first glance, these two appear to have little in common, yet they share something special: they are both amputees.
Mr. Jefferson served as a Lieutenant with the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment. In 1945, in the Rhine Valley, Germany, he was injured by an anti-personnel mine explosion, resulting in the loss of his left leg below the knee.
When he returned home, Charlie joined The War Amps, which was started by First World War amputee veterans to help each other adapt to their new reality. Years later, these veterans established the Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program, which provides young amputees, like Isla, who was born a left arm amputee, with financial assistance for artificial limbs and the peer support of fellow amputees.
It was through The War Amps that Isla and her family heard about Mr. Jefferson. With Remembrance Day coming up, they visited him at his Ottawa residence.
Isla was interested to learn about Mr. Jefferson and the medals he earned for his service. She was also intrigued that he too was missing a limb. Isla described Mr. Jefferson as a role model who made her feel proud to be an amputee.
Isla’s mom, Jamie, says it is important that her daughter understands the sacrifices that many Canadians made for our freedom. “Mr. Jefferson and others risked their lives so that we could live in a better world.”
Through The War Amps “Operation Legacy,” Isla and young amputees across the country pay tribute to the veteran members of the Association who laid the foundation for programs that continue to make a difference in the lives of amputees today.
“Because of their work, child amputees have the tools and resources they need to be active, independent, and confident,” says Jamie.
But Charlie says he also takes comfort in knowing that Isla and other “champs” will continue spreading the message of remembrance, even when he no longer can.
Adds Jamie, “They (veterans) passed this legacy to younger amputees, and now it’s their turn to share these stories so that the sacrifices of veterans and all those who served are never forgotten. It’s a wonderful legacy!”