This pin commemorates the Forest Lawn Legion, where I was the manager for twenty years. This is my story.
I had been drafted by Communist Czechoslovakia in the midst of the Cold War to serve as Border Patrol. It was a warm October in 1962 so we were still wearing our summer uniforms. I had an AK-47 and a side arm, which was standard armament. We were stationed at the West German border on a wide swath of cleared land, facing three small villages, Wildheim, Neukirchen, and Neudorf.
It was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the situation was VERY TENSE. A Canadian armed division was facing us. One morning, we discovered a 50-calibre machine gun was sticking through a window in the church tower of Neukirchen, aimed directly at us. Due to our small arms situation, a Czech army motorized division situated 30 kilometers north of us gave us a WW II Check-mate tank, with a perfect cannon. We aimed the cannon at the machine gun in the church tower.
VERY tense. The standoff lasted four days. We remained behind that tank in a 3rd Degree Alarm state, which meant we were not allowed to remove our boots or clothes. Neither side was allowed to fire a shot. Khrushchev and Kennedy finally resolved the crisis. The Lieutenant told us we could stand down. The tension dissipated, the troops left, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was over.
Six years later, in 1968, I immigrated to Canada. In 1996, I became General Manager of the Forest Lawn Legion in Calgary, where I met a retired professional soldier from the PPCLI. We spoke one day and he asked where I served. It was during that conversation that we discovered we had served on opposite sides at the same time and the same place. In order to confirm this, I asked him several questions about what he saw from his position. He said that he saw a mill with a water wheel to his right hand side, and a school to his left. He was 100% accurate. He asked me what was the heaviest gun we had and I replied that it was the tank. My new friend was the machine gunner in the church at Neukirchen!
We became good friends and both took great joy in retelling this story over the years.
Paul Hebelka Patrolman (Ret’d)