Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

On Sunday, people will gather in the crisp morning autumn air in communities from Port McNeill to Oak Bay to salute those who sacrificed so much.

Young and old alike will pay their respects to those who sacrificed, heeding the words: we cannot forget; we must not forget.

As the veterans who served in the great wars slip away from us, more than ever their courage lives on in the stories we share. Here is a sampling that remind us of why we pause every year on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

And why we do not forget.

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By the time Trevor Anderson was seven years old, he was already setting traps, driving cars and had his own gun. That’s what happens when you grow up in the rural area of Houston, B.C., he said.

Anderson, now 98, stopped going to school after Grade 8, opting instead to get a job. By the time the Second World War began, Anderson was 20 years old and ready to fight.

Full story: 98-year-old Victoria veteran shot from the air, took secret photos, and sought adventure

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In a carefully crafted collection of hybrid Canadian poetry/flash creative non-fiction, Port Alberni author Jacqueline Carmichael brings to life the “little true stories” from the First World War.

Tweets From the Trenches: Little True Stories of Life and Death on the Western Front was published earlier this year on the 100th anniversary of Canada’s 100 Days—the final 100 days of the First World War. Carmichael, the granddaughter of two First World War veterans, said she was inspired by the writing of her paternal grandfather, George “Black Jack” Vowel.

Port Alberni poet shares ‘little true stories’ of First World War

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Some mementos of flying exploits can’t be worn on military uniforms.

There’s a Royal Canadian Air Force dress uniform on display at the Vancouver Island Military Museum with an unusual pin: a golden caterpillar with red eyes, underneath the jacket’s right lapel. There’s an equally unusual patch of an embroidered goldfish with wings sewn under the left lapel.

Both are symbols of feats attesting to an airman’s flying and survival skills, but unlike medals and ribbons displaying achievements of a military career, neither the pin nor patch are sanctioned by the military and so can’t be openly displayed.

Goldfish, caterpillars and close calls

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Shaun Standley thought he was going to be a career military man. Serving as a critical care nursing officer with the Canadian Army, the Port Alberni veteran loved his job.

Standley was deployed to Afghanistan twice, in 2005 and 2008. He spent seven months working in a medical area that saw trauma patients brought in from the frontlines; he does not talk in detail about what he saw over there.

Service dog helps Port Alberni veteran deal with PTSD symptoms

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Earlier this year, Chemainus’ Rachel Woodruff received word she had won the presitigious Beaverbrook Vimy Prize from the Vimy Foundation, a Canadian charity, to travel to historic sites in Europe.

She was one of just 14 outstanding students from across Canada plus one each from the United Kingdom and France to study the intertwined histories of our countries during the First and Second World Wars.

The trip was taken Aug. 8-23 and left a profound impression on Woodruff.

Full story: Touring historic war sites a chance of a lifetime

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Norm Deen spent more than three decades serving the Royal Canadian Navy. The 81-year-old Bowser resident and member of the Bowser Legion Branch #211 said it was time well-spent.

“I just loved working for the Navy,” said Deen. “I know there was some bitter and bad times but I don’t remember them. I only remember the good times.”

Full story: Navy veteran fondly recalls career

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This Remembrance Day will be special for Duncan’s Rod Macintosh and his dad, Richard.

Richard, who lives in Comox, has been invited by his former regiment, the Calgary-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, to attend the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in Mons, Belgium, on Nov. 11.

Richard, who joined the regiment in the 1950s, was stationed in Germany 50 years ago and was a part of the parade that was also held in Mons at the time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Full story: Island family invited to Remembrance Day ceremonies in Belgium

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“We wear our hearts on our sleeves during the month of November, or rather our poppies on our breasts. But why the poppy? It was spotlighted in the poem “In Flanders Fields,” but there are surely symbols of remembrance that represent war and its grizzly horrors more accurately.

“It is my belief that the poppy is our symbol of remembrance and by default, war, because we do not want to understand how truly devastating war is.”

The Poppy Remembers, an essay by Kaz Bannister

***

For one Nanaimo veteran, the war years were quite a ride.

Harry Bullock, who turned 98 this week, is one of a small number of local veterans who served in the Second World War. Much of his service came during the Italian campaign toward the end of the war, as he served as a military policeman and dispatch rider, traversing “dodgy” mountain roads on his motorbike, often alone.

Soldier rode over, around, and right through the war

***

Francis Pegahmagabow went to a recruitment office almost immediately after war was declared in 1914.

The Ojibwa sniper from Wasauksing First Nation of Parry Island would serve with the 1st Infantry Battalion and went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the First World War.

When he returned to Canada, his reputation as a brave soldier counted for very little and he didn’t receive the same rights or benefits as his white comrades.

Full story: Only equal on the battlefield: Efforts underway to honour Indigenous veterans

***

Gordon Heppell has a piece of history on the wall of his shop, The Big Scoop in downtown Duncan.

His grandfather, George Heppell, died fighting in France with British forces in 1918, during the last stages of the First World War.

When the war ended, the British government issued memorial plaques to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed during the long years of fighting, and Heppell’s family received one of the approximately 1.4 million plaques that were made and distributed at the time.

Full story: ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ remembers war, sacrifice for Duncan business owner

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For submarine veteran Stephane Marcotte, getting out of the house was a much harder task before he was paired with his compassion dog, Sarge.

Now, with help from Sarge, Marcotte, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, is able to enjoy the outdoors and be social.

Service dogs help veterans deal with PTSD

***

“Three feet of mud, shells bursting all around, dodging from shell hole to shell hole with a wounded man on your back, your pants fall down and you are not even 20 years old.”

Full story: North Island veterans reminisce about their service

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Disabled veterans across Canada will be able to retrain in an emerging field where life experiences could give them a competitive advantage thanks to a Port Alberni-based institution.

Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences has received a grant through Veterans Affairs Canada to train 25 disabled vets in its continuing education program in return-to-work and disability management.

Disabled veterans to get continuing ed through Pacific Coast University

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