Vincent Murphy shows his support for veterans every year during the Royal Canadian Legion poppy campaign leading up to Remembrance Day.
For Murphy, a Regina-based playwright, that means performing his one-man show Tommy Goes to War.
The play delves into the harsh conditions of the First World War and the lasting physical and mental injuries soldiers returned home with.
“It relates to anyone, in any conflict anywhere,” Murphy said prior to performing the play at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 362 in Saskatoon.
“It reflects on what was then called shell-shock, which is now called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Murphy said. “At that time, it was considered to be an act of cowardice, and young men were actually court-martialed and shot with firing squad as a result of suffering profound PTSD.”
The main character’s name in the play is Tommy. Murphy said he uses inspiration from his uncle Thomas each time he performs the play.
Murphy’s uncle fought in the First World War and faced many of the same conditions that are explored in the production.
“The damage it did to him,” Murphy said. “He was one of four of my uncles who went overseas for that war.”
“They all came back in various states of disrepair.”
Murphy performs the play across Saskatchewan legion branches each October and November.
He said he didn’t know how he would be received when he first started organizing the production. But those doubts were quickly erased after he was approached by a veteran after his first performance.
“He was a man that had been in the Second World War. He stepped up to me and said:’Vincent, you said all the right things,'” Murphy said of the encounter.
“That’s all he had to do.”
Murphy feels it’s important to keep stories of the First World War at the front of people’s minds, especially with this year’s Remembrance Day marking 100 years since the armistice that ended the conflict.
He ends every performance by asking members of the audience: “How many people have a connection to the military?”
“Maybe two-thirds of the hands go up,” Murphy said before sharing his usual reply. “If you are living in this free country, in this democracy, then put your hands up, because you are doing so because of the sacrifice of the men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces.”