Cpt. Martin Maxwell, a Second World War veteran, wants people during the pandemic to know, “this also will pass.”
Maxwell, 96, is self-isolating with his wife of 53 years, Eleanor, in their Toronto home.
As he saw news of Canadian Armed Forces being deployed to assist in long-term care homes, he knew he wanted to help. So he launched a GoFundMe campaign to financially support veterans and current military personnel and their families who may be impacted by COVID-19, whether it means more support for elder veterans, or for those entering these places, potentially putting their health at risk.
“When we went to war and when we finally succeeded, we received medals,” Maxwell said Wednesday.
“My granddaughter is a nurse in Huntsville. What they have to go through, I would have worn these medals and thanked the nurses, the doctors, the people who keep the place clean, the truck drivers who make sure we have food, the people who stack the shelves, the police and firefighters — they all deserve medals. But all we can give them is our grateful thanks.”
Maxwell is hoping to raise $75,000 for the True Patriot Love Foundation and has kicked off the campaign by donating $2,000 of his own. He said an anonymous donor has stepped up and promised to match the first $25,000 of donations. As of Wednesday afternoon, the cause has raised $2,150.
“Seventy-five years ago, I was a soldier in WWII and lived through a very challenging time along with many others who fought for our freedom and those who supported at home. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new and different war that we’re now facing, and I am growing increasingly concerned about my brothers and sisters-in-arms who are affected by this global crisis,” reads the GoFundMe description.
Maxwell was born in Vienna in 1924 and escaped for England the night of Nov. 9, 1938 — Kristallnacht — when Nazis attacked and killed hundreds of Jews. At 17, he fought with the British 6th Airborne Division as a volunteer glider pilot. He was one of six gliders who landed in Normandy on the eve of D-Day to capture six bridges to cut off Nazi Germany’s reinforcements. He was part of the liberation of Holland on Sept. 17, 1944.
Three months later, he was also among the troops to take the bridge of the Rhine River in the Netherlands, but was wounded and captured by Nazis. Maxwell was sent to a German prisoner of war camp until he was liberated in May 1945, marking the end of the Second World War for him.
In 1952, Maxwell came to Toronto to reunite with his youngest sister, Berta Lunenfeld, who was a Holocaust survivor. His two other sisters were killed in the Holocaust. Maxwell said he got married and raised two sons in Toronto. He now has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“When I was in Holland, I visited a cemetery and written on one of the gravestones were these words, ‘For your tomorrows, we gave our todays,’” he said. “Front-line workers are risking their todays for our tomorrows.”
The CEO of the True Patriot Love Foundation, which will be designating funds from the campaign to military-focused organizations in need, said it’s often more difficult for military families to get proper access to health care than their civilian counterparts and some soldiers may have PTSD from their time at war.
“Those things can be exacerbated by things like social lockdown,” said Nick Booth. “Often, we know that veterans are financially less secure, having been through transition. The economy is uncertain, that will also be a stressor.”
On May 5, Maxwell will join retired Gen. Rick Hillier, Invictus Games athlete and retired Cpl. Kelly Scanlan and Peter Mansbridge for a virtual fireside chat in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. They will share their perspectives on leadership, teamwork and resilience from the war and how lessons from the past can help people navigate the current global pandemic.
To make a donation to the GoFundMe, go to: gofundme.com/f/captain-maxwell.