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.

Put Down Your #&%#$ Phone!

The Blinky Thing

Whilst on the World Wide Web today I came across this image. I shared it as a bit of humour on a Canada veterans group to which I belong, applying the remark “This could really work if more drivers got their face out of their phones.”

I had typed that remark because many of my fellow veterans are, like myself, motorcycle riders, and vehicle driver phone use is a sore point with us. Not only us actually, but all bikers. As I posted the photo my mind said, “Hmm, there could be a blog post about this”, and sure enough, here we are.

Like many bikers, I started riding long before cellphones were a thing. In the ’40s and ’50s, what was perhaps the cell phone’s predecessor, existed for many of us in the form of Dick Tracy’s wrist radio.

As a person who rides a motorcycle, there are few things that upset me more than those who use their cellphones in anything other than hands-free mode. They are doing something that seriously takes their attention away from their driving and becomes a major danger to other vehicles on the road, particularly motorcycles as many drivers don’t notice us all that well at the best of times.

Unfortunately, I, like many in the motorcycle community, know fellow riders who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of improper cellphone use. These events cut very close to home, and I have narrowly avoided a very bad situation a couple of times myself.

If a text, or any other cellphone related activity, is so important to risk a person’s life, then bloody well pull off to the side of the road, stop, and stay there until you are done. Otherwise, as the title of this blog says, “Put Down Your #&%#$ Phone!”

Please don’t use your phone. The possible tragedy which can result is something that you will have to live with the rest of your life. Unfortunately we may not.

As always, comments and feedback are always welcome.

There Is Here

Like so many others across Canada and beyond, I am doing as I should, and staying home during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-February we traveled to visit family in Malaysia and while gone, seeing as how the car would just sit in the garage, I put parked car insurance on it. When we returned to Edmonton, we did 16 days isolation and then, due to the situation, any travel for me was restricted to a limited number of places. So, being retired, I just stayed home, and my car insurance remained unchanged.

Don’t get the idea that I had no desire to get out once in a while. Of course I did. And also, in the garage, I had a way to make that happen. My motorcycle!

Now, seeing as how a motorcycle is not a car, I couldn’t get parked car insurance for it, therefore its insurance remained in full force. So I could get out and move around a bit – right?

There was, unfortunately, a bit of an issue however. Mother Nature. Seems that this year, she had decided that Spring would be delayed. And delayed. And delayed. The last two years, I was able to get out on my bike end of March, beginning of April. Not this year. First day out, when the roads and weather were fairly decent, was April 15. And more importantly, the #%&*@^ ice was finally gone from the laneway in front of the garage.

In the month since my first journey out this year, I have been out on the bike about twenty times. There were a few blank days due to low temperatures or rain, with a wee bit of snow thrown in as well. It is Alberta after all.

The question is, with all this COVID-19 stuff, where do I go. You may have heard an expression, “you can’t get there from here”. In my case, I can. Because, you see, there is here.

I would go out for a ride, sometimes 150 to 200 kilometres, and my destination was always my start, so, there is here. The only stop I might make on a ride was to fuel up, and that was seldom as my bike gets very good fuel mileage.

I know I am not alone in this type of endeavor. I have a number of retired military comrades who also ride, and for many of them the experience is the same.

Bottom line. It is really nice to get out, see different areas of surrounding countryside, receive “wind therapy” as we call the ride. However, until such time as we can actually go more places, this fact will remain accurate.

There is here!