Ex Cadets connect with school children- #2 in a series
On Remembrance Day 2017, 7964 Don Bell (right) and 7530 Fletcher Thomson (left) (both Class of ’69) marched in the veterans’ contingent of the Ottawa parade. Upon dispersal, while they were on their way to the Veterans’ Lunch at the Chateau Laurier, a lady in the crowd gave each of them a letter written by a school child thanking them for their service, and asking questions about life in the Armed Forces. When they arrived at the lunch, they found more letters like these at their table.
After the lunch, Don noted that some of the letters had not been picked up. To avoid having the letters go unanswered, he canvassed classmates to write replies. Over the next few Issues, eVeritas will publish these letters and replies. Due to privacy and security concerns, only the students’ first names can be published.
We hope you enjoy reading the letters.
13 November 2017
Thank you for your letter and for your interest in veterans.
My name is Micheal Lawrance and I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, B.C. At the end of high school, I decided to join the Armed Forces and was accepted into the Canadian Military College at Royal Roads near Victoria. My father, uncle and grandfather had all served overseas during World War 2 in the army and I joined the army, as well. Besides having the opportunity to serve our country, I also was able to obtain a university education, to engage in a wide variety of sports and to make friends I still have 52 years later. I graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1969.
My first job in the army was Troop Commander in the Field Engineer Squadron at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick. Our job was to build roads and gravel airstrips and to set up and operate fresh water points to provide drinking water to other soldiers and to civilians. We also built fortifications and defences to protect our troops from enemy attack. During my posting, I became an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) officer: I was responsible to blow up or remove unexploded bombs or ammunition; I also trained with the U.S. Navy to learn how to disarm and dispose of improvised explosive devices (booby traps).
My second job in the Armed Forces was at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Quebec, in the Construction Engineer Section. CFS Bagotville is an operational base for interceptor and ground attack aircraft that is on quick response status 24 hours every day. CF101 interceptors operated day and night. I was responsible for the operational maintenance of the runways and hangers, the security fencing surrounding the runways and the base roads. Incidentally I also learned and practiced how to speak French while I served at Bagotville. The proof that my French was OK is that I married a francophone girl from New Brunswick after I was posted to Ottawa.
My third and final job in the army was at Canadian Armed Forces Headquarters in Ottawa. I had three main priorities:
a) managing the construction of gravel airstrips for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs along the west coast of Hudson Bay and on Baffin Island,
b) overseeing the design of the Eagle River Bridge in northern Yukon
c) and logistical planning support to the Canadian Brigade operating out of Lahr, West Germany, as part of the NATO deployment.
The fun part of these jobs was to actually fly in a Twin Otter aircraft to visit the small Inuit villages that the airstrips were connecting to the rest of Canada. It really showed me how big a country Canada is and the important role the Armed Forces plays in the development of northern Canada.
No, I wasn’t involved in a war; my time in the Armed Forces was in spent in helping to prevent a war by standing with other Canadians who had also volunteered to join and train in the various services of the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada, in turn, cooperated with the Armed Forces of our allies and friends around the world to protect our joint security and our democratic way of life.
I enjoyed very much reading your letter – and your writing is quite legible, by the way. Musicwise, when I was about your age we listened to first-generation rock: Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Eric Clapton. I still like their sound. Good luck with your goal of becoming a marine biologist; aim high – you can do anything. Finally, do give going to one of the Military Colleges some thought. You can serve your country while getting a valuable education and a unique experience in personal development.