Patient stories

‘What have you done with the tomorrows they gave you?’: Meet Retired Capt. Martin Maxwell

Captain (Retired) Martin Maxwell
Written by Sybil Millar

In this photo, registered nurse Joan Carruthers prepares to lay out Captain (Retired) Martin Maxwell’s uniform on his bed on Remembrance Day.

Captain (Retired) Martin Maxwell was 20 years old when he piloted a glider carrying a team of British Army commandos into Normandy, France just after midnight on June 6, 1944. His mission, Operation Deadstick, unfolded only hours before Allied forces started the largest seaborne invasion in history, known as D-Day.

“We were the first ones to fly in behind enemy lines that night. We surprised the Germans and captured Pegasus bridge, which limited their ability to counterattack during D-Day. For many of us, D-Day was the turning point for the Allied forces in WWII,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell, who is now 96 years old, had hoped to return to Normandy this year to mark the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, before COVID-19 and his current hospitalization at Sunnybrook forced him to change his plans.

When it became clear he would still be in the hospital on November 11, Maxwell’s care team came together to help him mark Remembrance Day.

Social workers and physicians arranged for Maxwell’s wife of 54 years, Eleanor, to drop off his uniform and medals on the morning of November 11. They also helped him set up a video call with a dozen of his family members so he could share parts of a speech he had originally planned to deliver during a Remembrance Day ceremony.

Just before 11 o’clock, nurses laid out his uniform and medals on his bed. Pinned to the lower left side of his jacket is the distinctive red ribbon and five-armed badge of the Legion of Honour, the highest distinction awarded by France, given to him for his role in capturing Pegasus bridge.

Maxwell’s most recent trip to Normandy was five years ago to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. He says that as he walked through the rows of tombstones marking the final resting places of 1700 of his fellow comrades, the inscription on one gravestone in particular has stayed with him.

“It said, ‘For your tomorrows, we gave our todays.’ So, on Remembrance Day, we must ask ourselves, ‘what have you done with the tomorrows they gave you?’”

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, Infectious Diseases, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Critical Care program at Sunnybrook.

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