Military Attaches Support Canadian Veterans: Ottawa Service Attache Association raises funds for Perley-Rideau Health Centre

By Richard Lawrence

 If you have “… no home to go to – come here. The staff spoil us. In fact, it’s a little embarrassing you know”. These are the opening remarks of Mr.Gerald Bowen, a resident at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre (the Perley), during the reception mounted by the Ottawa Service Attachés Association (OSAA) at the Perley last night. OSAA is an association of the Defence Attachés from around the world and posted to Ottawa and who have taken the Perley under their wing to raise money and to try and make life better for the veterans served by the Perley.

This year OSAA has worked 5 months to gather 43 sponsors, mostly defence contractors, who donated $33,549.43, money which, with the personal contributions from the Gala Thursday night, is enough to completely renovate the dining facilities at the Perley. This is the biggest fundraising event ever undertaken by OSAA and will continue under the auspices of Project Perley.

The reception was well attended by military, diplomatic envoys (Ambassador’s from Korea and Latvia at least), defence attachés, sponsors, veterans from the Perley, and many veterans’ family members. There were addresses to the reception from Col Thad Hunkins, Defence Attaché from the United States of America and representing OSAA, Mr. Akos Hoffer, CEO of the Perley, and Mr. Ron Buck, Chair of the Board of Directors. However, it was Mr. Bowen’s speech from his wheelchair that seemed to touch the crowd most. “We’re happy here because of you.” he stated. “I don’t think there would be any other place on this earth where we can be as well treated as we can here at the Perley. They’re so good to us”.

Before the big cheque was revealed, there was also a presentation to Ms. Louise Mercier for her fundraising efforts and assistance over the years. The Governor-General was unable to attend but sent a note to OSAA hoping their actions will “inspire others to do the same”. OSAA had this note framed along with the Angel Heart Award noting that Ms. Mercier was “a best friend to OSAA and Canada’s military”.

After this presentation, the cheque was unveiled for $33549.43 and the reception resumed.

Candlelight Tribute for Veterans

By RIchard Lawrence

 The Canadian War Museum once again hosted the Candlelight Tribute for Veterans on Monday night, 6th November, 2017, to a full house of veterans and families in the Lebreton Gallery. The Ottawa Police Chorus serenaded the crowd prior to the start of the ceremony and the entrance of the Official Party. The official party of the evening included of the Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Sherry Romanado, the Mayor of Ottawa, His Worship Jim Watson, the Director General, Naval Force Development, RCN, Commodore Casper Donovan, and the President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History and Canadian War Museum, Mr. Mark O’Neill.

The Ceremony started with the laying of wreaths followed by the youth of Canada, represented mostly by the Cadets, War Amps, and Scouts organizations, taking candles given by the seated veterans and placing them on the front stage in front of the wreaths previously laid. There were then brief addresses from Mr. O’Neill and Commodore Donovan followed by the Act of Remembrance, Commitment to Remember, the lament, silence and rouse. The remembrance portion of the program completed, the Mayor rose to award a street sign to the family of a veteran who will have a street in Ottawa named in his/her honour.

This year, the honour of having a street named after a veteran was bestowed upon the family of Leading Writer Stuart Alexander Kettles, an Ottawa born World War II veteran who passed away 20th May, 1966. Mr. Kettles was born in 1917 and joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve in 1941. He was posted to the H.M.C.S Athabaskan in 1942 until the Athabaskan was sunk on 30th April, 1944, after which he was taken as a prisoner of war (POW) to Germany for the next year. During his time as a POW he kept a diary detailing the daily life of those captured. After the war, Mr. Kettles continued to serve the community with the Ottawa Police Services from 1946 until 1966. The street, Stuart Kettles Street, is located in Bayward Ward.

Following the street name presentation the Mayor proclaimed 5-11 November as Veterans Week and exchanged the framed proclamation with a framed copy of the Veterans Week poster from the Parliamentary Secretary. Ms. Romanado then addressed the veterans before passing the stage to the Canterbury High School Chamber Choir and the Governor General’s Foot Guard Band to end the program.

20th Annual Senate Remembrance Ceremony

By Richard Lawrence

Senate Remembrance Ceremony 2017

On Friday, 3rd November, 2017, the Senate of Canada held its 20th Annual Ceremony of Remembrance in the Senate Chambers of the Parliament Buildings.  The official party consisted of the Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable George Furey, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Geoff Regan, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Sherry Romanado, who stood in for the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, who was sidelined with a health issue that was “serious but not life threatening”.

While the speakers today largely focused on the Great War battle of Passchendaele, marking the 100th Anniversary of this battle and the Canadian losses from it, Speaker Furey also remarked that it was the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Dieppe, one of the bloodiest battles in World War II for Canadians.  Speaker Regan took another direction and provided an eloquent history of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower and how architect John A. Pearson visited the various battlefields in France and Britain to collect stone for its construction.  He noted that the main altar, the “heart of the chamber”, was a gift from Great Britain and that the cap badges of many Canadian regiments are carved into the stone walls of the chamber. 

Of particular interest was the fact that Pearson had originally intended to have all the names of the war dead engraved into the walls of the Chamber but that became impossible as the numbers of dead, over 66,000, continued to mount.  Instead it lead to the First World War Book of Remembrance, which sits upon the altar in the Chamber and to which six other Books of Remembrance of war dead, from the Nile to Korea to present day, sit on other altars, pages turned each day at 1100 hours.  As Speaker Regan noted, “it was not possible to return the remains of all the fallen for burial in Canada” but Pearson got his wish “… to provide Canadians with a way to honour those lost and a place on Canadian soil to mourn them.”.

Operation NANOOK 2017

October 2017 Issue

From August 23-24, Esprit de Corps photojournalist Richard Lawrence accompanied the Canadian Armed Forces on Operation Nanook.

In describing his adventure in Rankin Inlet, Lawrence explained: "The story here is not one of the the CAF doing its sovereignty operations but more one of emergency preparedness and the co-ordination between all the municipal, territorial, and federal agencies (including DND) to get things done.  A big part of it is understanding that regardless of what level is involved, all command and control originates with the municipal authorities through requests for assistance (RFAs) and all agencies are subordinate to the local authority, including DND.  It was interesting to see all these people who are used to being in charge and issuing commands holding themselves back so that the local authority can learn what to do and do what works within the framework of their society.”

Look for a full feature story in the October issue of Esprit de Corps.

Aboriginal Veterans Day

By Richard Lawrence

On June 21, 2017, the organization Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones (AVA) celebrated and remembered the veterans of indigenous heritage by holding the annual Remembrance Ceremony at the Aboriginal War Veterans monument in Ottawa.

It was a perfect day with temperatures in the high teens, a coolish breeze, and blue sky smattered with clouds. In attendance was the Commander of the Canadian Army, LGen. Paul Wynnyk, Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Walt Natynczyk, and Veterans Affairs Ombudsman Guy Parent. Each laid a wreath in remembrance of the countless Canadian Armed Forces members of Aboriginal descent who served. Many other veterans groups attended, including the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and the Korean Veterans Association (KVA) who assisted in the organization and parts of the ceremony. Attendance at the event was quite good for such a niche ceremony held in the middle of the week with probably around 200 present.

The ceremony itself followed the standard pattern of remembrance with the Commitment to Remember, the Last Post, the Silence, the Rouse, and the laying of the wreaths; the ceremony lasted about 40 minutes. However, Aboriginal ceremonies have some special touches found nowhere else, such as a smudging ceremony to cleanse the area and the bringing of the Eagle Staff ahead of the flags of the Colour Party. There was also a drumming group in attendance who played prior to and during the ceremony.

At the end, LGen. Wynnyk was asked to come forward and he was presented with a ribbon shirt, which he accepted on behalf of the Army and the Canadian Armed Forces. He was then asked to present the Aboriginal Veteran Millennium Medal to Capt. Stanley in recognition of her service, completion of her degree, and her commitment to keeping and promoting native culture and lifestyle.

The ceremony completed, the assemblage retired to the Lord Elgin Hotel for a reception.

Celebrating ANZAC Day in Ottawa

By Richard Lawrence

Australians and New Zealanders have been commemorating the landings at Gallipoli during the Great War since 1916. “It has become the national day of commemoration to remember those Australians and New Zealanders who died during WWI, WWII, and all subsequent wars and peacekeeping operations in which both countries have been involved,” stated Wing Commander Mike Salvador, the newly arrived New Zealand defence advisor who was the master of ceremonies at this year’s 102nd ANZAC Day, held at the Canadian War Museum on April 25, 2017.

Although all chairs were filled, it was a smaller ceremony than in the past couple of years, when it was standing room only. Also absent this year was anyone of significance from the Canadian government which, in the past, had been represented by such dignitaries as the Governor-General of Canada and/or the prime minister. And although Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance was also absent, he was ably and appropriately represented by LGen Paul Wynnyk, Commander of the Canadian Army.

The ceremony started with the posting of sentries around three stacked rifles, followed by a hymn and a prayer, and then an address by His Excellency Daniel Mellsop, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Canada. During his speech, Mellsop reiterated that, although this day commemorates the Gallipoli landings, it also recognizes the huge losses the two countries suffered on the Western Front during WWI and all the losses of military personnel since. Following an address by Wynnyk, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s Memoriam was read by His Excellency Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador to Turkey. Laurence Binyon’s ode “For the Fallen” was read my His Excellency Tony Negus, High Commissioner of Australia. From this point, the ceremony resembled most other remembrance ceremonies with the playing of the Last Post and the Rouse, and the laying of wreaths.

What is special about this ceremony is that all combatants participate in its remembrance, understanding that both sides had losses, and that, although enemies during the First World War, Turkey cares for the fallen Australia and New Zealand soldiers who are interred there with reverence and care. This is truly unique, as you don’t see this in other remembrance ceremonies, where former enemies unite to remember all those lost to battle.

Afterwards, all were invited to join the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia for morning tea in the Canadian War Museum lobby. (Fruit, juices, piggies in a blanket, huge croissants, cookies, and other munchies I think constitutes more than “tea”.)