There will be countless Remembrance Day ceremonies and parades across Canada today. It is a day to mark the end of hostilities of World War I and to allow us to collectively honour all of the fallen members of our armed forces. It is also a time to say thanks and show support to all veterans, and to those still serving in the military.
In that spirit I would like to share my “Top 5 List of Favourite Veterans”:
#5. Sergeant Ernest “Smokey” Smith – he passed away in 2005 and at the time was Canada’s last surviving recipient of the Victoria Cross, Canada’s highest honour, which he received for courageous battlefield actions in World War II. Then just a Private in rank, Smith single-handedly took on a German tank and infantry and saved the life of one of his comrades. He is a true example of Canadian courage under fire.
#4. Major Richard “Dick” Winters, US Army – made famous from the HBO TV series ‘Band of Brothers’, he was the Commander of ‘Easy Company’ from the 101st airborne division, one of the toughest units of the US military. Major Winters was not a fictional character, but a real-life dedicated and decorated World War II veteran and hero who parachuted into Normandy with his troops on D-Day and fought bravely and fiercely throughout World War II against the Nazis and a shining example of military leadership.
#3. Captain Dennis O’Connor (Retired) – served for 39 years in the Canadian Air Force and was a former Wing Chief here at CFB North Bay. He has continued to serve this community volunteering for the past 12 years since his retirement and is the current Chair of the North Bay Police Service Board and President of the Nipissing District Conservative Party Association. If all that wasn’t enough to get him onto this list, he’s also my stepdad who taught me the importance of serving your country and getting involved in the community, and he was one of the motivating factors that led me to join the Canadian Forces!
#2. Military Police (MP) Corporal’s Randy Payne and Matthew Dinning - these two MP's were killed in April 2006 in Afghanistan (along with Lt William Turner and Bombardier Myles Mansell) while travelling in a convoy when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb (IED). Every one of my brothers and sisters in arms who paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan is a hero in my book. For me though, as a fellow MP, these two, in particular, hold a special place in my heart and that of every other MP serving our country today. I was honoured to have the opportunity to visit their plaques at the Canadian Memorial at Kandahar Air Field when it was my turn to serve in Afghanistan and I also had the privilege of serving with Cpl Dinning’s brother here at CFB North Bay just a few years ago. Your watch is over, rest easy.
And finally, at #1 on My Top 5 List of Favourite Veterans is….
#1. Queen Elizabeth II - during World War II, then Princess Elizabeth served in the British Army as a mechanic and truck driver. Despite the dangers, she wasn’t afraid to join up and serve or to get her hands dirty and do her part to contribute to the war effort. As the world’s longest reigning monarch, she has inspired millions of people around the world with her dedication and service to country before self. A personal favourite of mine, Queen Elizabeth II makes the list because she is the only World War II Veteran that I am aware of anywhere that is still on duty, serving her country (and ours) 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with no plans on retiring anytime soon. Long live the Queen!
If you have a favourite veteran, story, or picture of your own you’d like to share, please do so in the comment section!
Lest We Forget.