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The Honourable Daniel J. MacDonald

Daniel “Daniel Dan” Joseph MacDonald was born in Bothwell, Prince Edward Island, on 23 July 1918 and lived an eventful life filled with service to his province and country. MacDonald owned his own farm, volunteered to fight in the Second World War, saw action in the Italian Campaign, became a member of his province’s legislative assembly, and served as a Member of Parliament as well as the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

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Lance Sergeant (Ret’d) David Adlington

After growing up on the family farm, MacDonald enlisted to serve his country during the Second World War. He initially joined the Prince Edward Highlanders in August 1940 before transferring to the Cape Breton Highlanders in 1943. He soon found himself fighting in the Italian Campaign – the Allied struggle to liberate Italy from its German occupiers.

MacDonald was wounded in the late summer of 1944 during an assault on the German’s Gothic Line. The sergeant soon recovered from his injuries and returned to the front lines. Then, on 21 December 1944, he was wounded again when an enemy 88 mm shell exploded near him during the Battle of Senio River in northern Italy. Severely injured, he spent months in Allied military hospitals, where he received treatment from Canadian Nursing Sisters like Lieutenant Maxine Llewellyn (Bredt). Ultimately as a result of these injuries, MacDonald’s left arm and leg were amputated.

“It’s not what you’ve lost, it’s what you have left!”

Despite in injury, his spirit was not broken. In fact, after recovering from his initial treatment, MacDonald showed his determination and will when he insisted on walking out of the hospital on his own despite Veterans usually being discharged in a wheelchair. He then hired a British cobbler to make a protector for his arm so he could walk more easily on his crutches.

MacDonald was discharged from the army in 1945 and he returned home to his province and farm. Wanting to continue to serve, this time his community, he joined the War Amps Prince Edward Island Branch. He did not let his lost limbs hold him back, he was known for believing “It’s not what you’ve lost, it’s what you have left!”

He then turned to serving his province. MacDonald’s political career began in 1962, when he was elected to the provincial legislature. Ten years later he ran in his first federal campaign in 1972 and was elected to represent the riding of Cardigan. Named Minister of Veterans Affairs, he worked hard to increase the support offered to Canadian Veterans and their families.

While serving as Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Daniel J. MacDonald visits a War Cemetery in Europe.

He introduced improvements like expanding eligibility to include Veterans’ widows and children in allowance and pension regulations. MacDonald also pushed for changes in legislation that increased Veterans’ disability pensions, the compensation for former prisoners of war and implemented programs to support Canadian Veterans emotionally, physically and financially.

MacDonald died on 30 September 1980. He received a state funeral in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau delivered the eulogy.

Today, the national headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada is located in Charlottetown and its main facility is called the Daniel J. MacDonald Building. It is in recognition of this incredible man whose sacrifices helped build the country we have today, one that is strong and free.

In honour of the Second World War’s Italian Campaign, Daniel J. MacDonald – Italian Campaign Veteran and the former Minister of Veterans Affairs – is one of our Faces of Freedom.

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