Prior to serving with the Vancouver Police Department for 31 years my stepfather, Detective Ron Gale (Ret.), first served 9 years with Canadian Forces Military Police. A man of tremendous character, integrity and thoughtfulness, I can say without reservation that he did justice to both the uniforms he wore during his 40-year policing career.
Recently, my mother and stepfather moved to Chilliwack after having spent the majority of their life together in South Surrey. Aside from the positive vibes and the various activities this vast, progressive city offers, it also holds meaningful memories for Ron who had been stationed as a Military Police Officer at CFB Chilliwack for several years.
Though the base was closed in 1997, there are a group of Veterans who continue to meet monthly – the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society. With the majority of their members ranging from their 70’s in to their 90’s, these individuals come together for various reasons: friendship… support… community services… etc. Moreover, they do so because of a common bond shared by all those who have served their county.
Recently, during one of their monthly meetings, a discussion took place regarding the upcoming 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge (April 9th to 12th, 1917). As part of this important historical anniversary, these Veterans had been trying to set-up displays in malls throughout the Fraser Valley. Sadly, they were not welcome everywhere they had applied to.
It isn’t often my stepfather talks about his military service. Indeed, it wasn’t until more recently when his former partner with the Vancouver Police Department, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, became Minister of National Defense for the Government of Canada that Ron started to share more about his experiences. However, it was just last week that he actually phoned me to express his deep frustration after learning about the rejection the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society has received throughout the Fraser Valley.
For my stepfather I think it hurts for a couple of reasons. First, as a matter of principal, one would think Veterans would be welcomed anywhere. Additionally, as the desire to set-up these displays are tied to the upcoming anniversary of Vimy Ridge – a battle his grandfather had fought in – I am certain it struck a painful chord within him. I will also add that though I myself am not a Veteran (my single greatest regret in life is not spending any time serving in the military) I am still deeply hurt and angered by the challenges facing those Veterans with the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society.
For the Record…
The Battle of Vimy Ridge is one of the most epic battles fought by Canadians in our history. It was bloody… it was awful… but that’s what war is. What bothers me is that political correctness has gone so far, and people are so hypersensitive to ‘not nice things’ in their relatively perfect little worlds, that they seem to glance over the realities of war.
Yes, violence is awful. Yes, death and suffering are horrific. Yes, war is an abomination. However, war is real. Our history is real. The sacrifices of our soldiers – then and now – is real. Whether we like it or not, these awful realities are the foundation that have brought us the relative peace and security we enjoy today and they must be discussed openly. From keeping the memories alive of those who have lost their lives in combat, to ensuring that war isn’t just something we see in the movies (and, thus, nothing more than a Hollywood spectacle), to ensuring we do not re-live past mistakes as a global society, these stories must be told – most notably, by those who lived them.
As I conclude this week’s column let me offer just two closing remarks. First, if you are reading this and you have a venue in your community that you can donate to those Veterans running the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society, please consider doing so. On a related note, my sincere thanks and appreciation to Willowbrook Mall in Langley who hosted these Veterans just a few weeks ago. Second, though it is always important to thank our men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice, please make an extra special point this April 9th to 12th to do so as we remember their predecessors – 100 years ago – who will forever be Canadian heroes.