It’s a shame so few of Canada’s Second World War veterans are still with us. The mettle of their character was demonstrated by their service and sacrifice. The ones I’ve met in Saskatchewan have been most memorable.In August of 2004, I reported on the 18th reunion of the 8th Armed Reconnaissance Regiment as an intern for CTV Regina. J. Wilfred Birtwhistle recalled how quickly he went from lighthearted to serious: “We drove up to the airport, got out of the car, having fun, all that sort of stuff, when all of a sudden the Germans started firing at us. We were down on the ground scratching to get undercover before we got shot,” he said.It’s unclear from my old TV report where this happened, but in Normandy, he was wounded by a bazooka gun.“A German came around the corner of this pub and fired at me and I saw the bomb coming, the bazooka bomb.”In a funny anecdote I left out of the report, he and some fellow soldiers came upon a brewery near Caen, France. He said after the boys got into the rum, “Our heads were hurting so bad, we were just hoping the Germans would bomb us out of our misery!” They found their troop again after a week and resumed their duties.In all, 120 of their regiment died in the war. I asked Sergeant Len Beck if he would answer his nation’s call again if his youth remained. He said, “Right away, in spite of what I have seen and heard."As an agent for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, I met more veterans, including Lloyd and Bert Henderson. Lloyd Henderson flew a Halifax bomber. He said it always made one a little nervous when a squadron rolled out in formation because the watches were not precisely synchronized. There was always a slight chance they would collide.Henderson’s obligations ended with his 39th mission, so he hung up his goggles. “Doesn’t 40 sound like a nice round number?” Henderson said, “No, 39 sounds great to me!” The one who replaced Henderson on the mission was shot on that very occasion.Margaret Oakes, an English woman who drove for the forces, followed Henderson home to the farm near Herschel, SK. They raised five children in 74 years of marriage. Lloyd’s three years in the air force defined his life. His house had a room with cast models, paintings and photos of the Halifax bomber. When Premier Brad Wall visited his community for a BBQ, he gave him a copy of his memoirs. In Indian Head, Ray Bailey told me how he fudged his age to train as a parachutist in 1943 at CFB Shiloh. He did drops in the war and was paid 75 cents per jump on top of his $1.25 daily pay. Most soldiers were only paid a dollar daily, which is what motivated him to be a parachutist.Bailey said he actually fell asleep while marching a 200 km stretch only to wake up when his face hit a backpack on a soldier in front of him. “I didn’t know you could do that,” he said of his sleep-marching feat.On one occasion abroad, he used his revolver to access a sealed brandy container, shooting a hole in the top and bottom, then plugging the bottom with a pencil.Bailey was a month shy of his 88th birthday when he told me these stories, and I asked him if he was ready for his final “jump.” He said, "Whenever He calls me."My return to journalism offered me some final chances to hear these stories. Allen Cameron told me how he was a Grade 10 student in Saskatoon when he thought, “Gee, maybe I should join the air force.” Colour blindness kept him from flying, but he arrived in England as an airframe mechanic. He hoped to see his older brother but, sadly, the fighter pilot was shot down six days after Cameron arrived.On one occasion, a friend mishandled a sten gun and almost shot him on an airstrip. Another time, in Fano, Italy, he stopped at a barber shop, but walked out when he saw how packed it was. He was barely a safe distance away when he heard a “wumph.” He turned around to see the shop in ruins from a bomb. He helped clear out rubble and find bodies for three days.Cameron served in the air force for 26 years. HIs wife died in 2016 after 69 years of marriage.“I got the crap scared out of me a couple of times a little bit. I lost my hearing and I kind of got an injury or two. But all in all I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said.Osborne Lakness was studying agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan when he decided to join the navy.“They said that the Prairie boys made the best sailors. I don't know why. We'd never seen the ocean before,” he recalled with a laugh.He married his wife of 69 years in 1943. He still doesn’t know if the $10 he slipped a writer in Cornwallis, NS, got him drafted to a ship, but soon enough he was on the HMCS St. Stephen. He crossed the Atlantic seven times in convoys protecting supplies and was there when the captain sent depth charges to blow up a German U-boat.Cameron, who remained an active curler into his late '90s, thought those in the army had it worse.“They got into trenches and stuff like that. It was a pretty tough life and they should be remembered. They took the brunt of everything, the army,” he said.“World War II veterans, they're getting pretty scarce.”Sadly, he’s right. More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in World War II, and 45,000 died in battle. Since then, age and circumstance have claimed all but 20,000. If you have a chance to meet a World War II soldier, by all means take it.