Farewell My Friend

Just over two weeks ago I did a blog post and a podcast about attending a special Remembrance Day Ceremony for Mike, a friend and fellow veteran, suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer. It was a very special event.

Today I got the sad news that he passed away this morning.

Mike was a loving husband and father, a caring friend, a distinguished soldier, a proud veteran and a patriotic Canadian.

He will be greatly missed by all. Condolences and love to his family.

Bravo Zulu Mike, for a life well lived.

A Very Special Remembrance Day

For myself and a couple hundred others, Remembrance Day was different this year.

Not because of the weather, although it was not the usual weather for Remembrance Day in Edmonton. It was sunny, blue skies, and 5C. The weather was excellent.

This year, the location for all of us was different from the usual. We were not at a cenotaph, or a Legion hall, or a high school gym. We were gathered at Mike’s driveway.

Now, why on earth would we gather at Mike’s driveway, and for that matter, who is Mike.

Well, Mike is a friend and fellow veteran. He had 35 years of service, been wounded in Afghanistan, and has not missed a Remembrance Day ceremony for as long as we can figure.

So, why his driveway of all places.

You see, Mike is suffering from stage 4 prostate cancer, and his daughters knew that, because of his dedication to Remembrance Day, he would ignore his pain and travel to attend the local ceremonies. To prevent that, they came up with a plan.

They called out to Mike’s friends, colleagues and fellow veterans, inviting them to take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony of sorts in front of Mike’s house. And thusly came into being, “A Very Special Remembrance Day”.

In response to the efforts, persistence and dedication of Mike’s daughters, many others became involved in various ways and a most wonderful event was the result.

A local cafe provided coffee, cocoa, and special Remembrance Day cookies. There was a piper, another provided a mike and speaker system. One of Mike’s fellow veterans used the PA system on his truck to provide the appropriate Remembrance Day music. There was a chap who called Mike’s daughter and asked if they had a flag. She indicated no, and he indicated, well now you do. Then he proceeded to come by and erect a temporary flag pole in front of the house. During the ceremony the Canadian flag was lowered to half-mast as per protocols thanks to this gentleman.

Mike is a biker, so what should appear, but about half a dozen motorcycles which arrived and parked on the side of his driveway.

At the beginning of this you will recall I had mentioned a couple hundred others. Both directions up and down the street were packed with people.

When the ceremonies began, all serving members and veterans in attendance formed up and came to attention under the direction of Margaret, our honourary sergeant-major. Having had much experience as a military wife during her ninety-five years, she certainly had all of us in order.

After the ceremony there were a few speeches, including a lovely one from Mike’s daughter. There were a few presentations, including one from Mike’s former colleagues at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

Mike shared some very emotional words as we came to the end of the event, which touched all of us.

Just at the end, after concluding their own Remembrance Day ceremony, members from the local Royal Canadian Legion arrived, including a colour party, and performed one final presentation to Mike.

As I had indicted in my podcast earlier, it was a different, and most excellent, Remembrance Day ceremony. One of the best that I have attended.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the event.

It was indeed – A Very Special Remembrance Day

Crash of BOXTOP 22

It has been suggested by friends that I write and podcast about my military career, and I have decided to do just that from time to time moving forward.

First however, I am writing about something that happened shortly after I retired, but not to me.

As part of my time in the Canadian Armed Forces, I had four tours of duty at Canadian Forces Station Alert, in Canada’s Far North. We would travel there by CC130 Hercules aircraft, flying from Trenton, Ontario, quite often via Thule, Greenland.

Later in the year that I retired, such a flight, callsign “BOXTOP 22”, crashed on approach to Alert. There were eighteen passengers and crew on board, and almost miraculously, thirteen survived.

Earlier today on Facebook I posted an article from the Canadian Military Family Magazine remembering the crash, as well as a photo of the aircraft wreckage on the ground in Alert now. Here is the link to that article.

Shortly after I had posted the article, a fellow trade member, and a crash survivor, posted a short video about the event. He kindly sent it to me and I shared it on Facebook and also share it here.

Although I had retired from the military by then, when I watched the video this morning I found myself to be quite emotional. Knowing people who were on that aircraft, and actually having flown on that particular plane, CC130 – 130322, a couple of occasions previously, it struck very close to home.

Below is the video and then the photo of the plane as it is currently.

Roll Call (courtesy of Monty Montgomery)
Here is the aircraft as it is today. (Courtesy of veterans.gc.ca)

My thanks to Monty for sharing the video.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.