2019 – Almost Done

Well, here we are, approaching the beginning of 2020 and as often happens, folks say it is time for reflection and review of the soon to end year.

2019 has been an interesting year for me. It’s the first year I have been officially retired and unemployed. During the year I marked my 70th birthday, spent two months in Malaysia, met the Governor General of Canada, logged about 7000km on motorcycles, participated in Kiwanis activities in two countries, didn’t win the lottery, and lost several good friends.

On the family side of things, Kim and I celebrated twenty years of marriage, son Colin became engaged to Amy, daughter Anita and her husband Aaron had their 10th anniversary, daughter Jaclyn and son Colin both had their 40th birthdays, oldest grandchild Valen became eighteen, Kim’s brother Philip passed away in November and her brother Jimmy overcame a serious health issue about the same time.

Overall though, it was my year, the year that I experienced, having both highs and lows.

Losing friends is a difficult part of our existance, a part which is never easy. This year I lost five good friends, one being family, and the latest happened while I was developing this post. Each person was very special in their own way, and each is an important part of my year.

Just after mid January I headed off to Malaysia for two months. My home base is Melaka and I traveled several times to Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. The intercity bus service was excellent and travel was quite comfortable. I also got some wind therapy in Melaka by putting in almost 1000 km on a rented scooter. Visiting with family and friends, along with a number of Kiwanis functions, kept me quite busy most of the time. Oh, and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the food. Missing the coldest February and March to hit Edmonton in years was a bonus.

Shortly after my return to Canada, son Colin and his lady, Amy, came to visit from “Jolly Old”. Not only did he celebrate his birthday during the visit, he proposed to Amy while spending time in Kananaskis Country (she said yes). A short time later it was back to England for them. Quite a successful visit for sure.

Will You – Yes I Will

Less than two weeks later, Kim and I were off to Ottawa for a very special occasion. I was to be presented with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by Her Excellency Governor General Julie Payette. It was a great honour as well as an amazing event.

After our return to Edmonton, lo and behold, it was summer. Our local Veterans UN/NATO Canada crews put on a successful fundraising event at the Kipnes Centre for Veterans. Shortly after Kim and I celebrated our 20th anniversary, and then came the Kiwanis Club of South Edmonton Annual Summer Picnic. I helped provide communications for the annual Edmonton Heritage Festival, and a week later we were attending the Kiwanis Western Canada District Convention. During all this, I managed to get in about 6000 km on my motorcycle, albeit mostly local around Edmonton.

Late September saw a number of our Veterans Crew head down to Red Deer to honour one of our members, Terry Turner, who had passed away in the spring. We sponsored a flag and plaque in his memory for the annual Flags of Remembrance ceremony. The flags and plaques were on display for two months (until Remembrance Day). When they were taken down, there was another ceremony where they were presented back to the sponsors or family. Kim and I took Terry’s wife Wendy to Red Deer and she received his flag and plaque.

Wrapping up the last quarter of the year were a number of Kiwanis activities along with our Veterans Group Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Well, there you go, a bit of an overview of my year. A sampling, as it were. There were, of course, many more happenings and events, however those included here are key memory items for me.

In a few days, a new year of happenings, events, and memories will commence. Bring it on 2020, lets see what you’ve got.

Wind Therapy

Many folks will read the title of this blog post and know instantly what I will be talking about.

As I go thru life I have done and enjoyed a good number of things. One that I did when younger, then missed out on for about forty years, and have taken up again, is riding a motorcycle.

Riding a bike on an open road provides that magic panacea, “wind therapy”.

It matters not whether one is alone, or with a group, wind therapy is present.

Like many bikers, I frequently ride alone, often on lightly traveled roads that have varying characteristics (up and down, nice curves), usually at or near the posted speeds. It can be, to a degree, therapeutic, this wind therapy.

Other times, we ride in groups, perhaps two or three riders, often about ten or so, sometimes many more as is shown in the video below.

Leaving Wainwright heading towards Edmonton.

This ride occurred in August 2018. The Rolling Barrage is a rolling fundraiser presented by Military Minds Inc, in support of veterans, serving members and first responders, as a show of strength, and unity to conquer the stigma of PTSD. A good number of the participants ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific across Canada. A number of our local veterans rode from Edmonton to Wainwright (just over 200 km) to meet the Rolling Barrage and accompany them to Edmonton. The video is from my helmet cam showing us leaving Wainwright with a police escort.

Most bikers are very generous people and we can often be seen getting our wind therapy by riding in fundraising charity events. A definite win-win situation.

The reason for this blog post in mid-December. Well… I miss my wind therapy! Although I can’t get out on the bike in a Canadian winter (it is hibernating in the garage), today I can reminisce with my videos and share with others, giving me a pseudo fix at least.

D-Day Plus 75 Years

As I type this, it is just about 0600 hours, June 6, 2019, off the coast of Normandy, exactly seventy-five years after the D-Day Invasion.

My father was an officer with the 43rd Battery, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, part of the Canadian contingent assigned to Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The 12th Field objective was to land at Courseulles-sur Mer, “Mike Green” as they knew it.

The air bombardment began at 0300 hours. At about 0630 hours the LCTs deployed for their firing run-in and at 0715 the blue flag broke out and corvettes, destroyers, cruisers, four regiments of artillery, landing craft rockets and landing craft guns began firing.

The first 12th Field Regiment vehicle landed on “Mike Green” at 0845 hours and as the remainder landed and deployed they were immediately called upon for supporting fire, starting at about 1400 yards. In doing so, they were the first artillery regiment to fire in France.

About 1530 hours the main exit had been cleared of mines and they moved to their first position inland, near Bannville. Casualties and equipment losses were not that serious and they had twenty-four guns in action off the beach.

In a few short paragraphs I have provided a quick overview of a day that in many ways likely defies description.

My father basically never talked about his wartime experiences. I have gotten the majority of my knowledge from online research and a book entitled “Into Action With The 12th Field”, essentially a history of the regiment.

I was prompted to write this today after encountering so many emotional individual tales depicting D-Day.

This is but a small portion of one of the most massive events in history, however it is an important portion to me. My father survived D-Day, and survived the remainder of the war, although he was injured in March 1945. He survived long enough to meet and marry our mother, raise three children, and do many amazing things until his death in 1992.

Interestingly, my father’s brother was serving on one of the Royal Canadian Navy corvettes that were part of the D-Day armada. He also survived and outlived his brother.

In some ways, this was not very easy to write, however to me it was important to do so. I do thank you for reading and appreciate any comments you may have.