Going the extra mile for the children – #4 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.
18 November 2017
Thank you, I really appreciated your lovely letter. My name is Lea Vachon and I was in the Army. Sometimes it feels strange being called a veteran when usually I just consider myself an old soldier. I’ll try and tell you a little bit about myself and answer some of your questions.
As a child I lived all over Canada but went to high school in Whitehorse, Yukon before joining the Army at the age of 16 (don’t know if they allow you to join at that age now!) At that time my reasons for joining were simply to get an education, see the world and experience adventure. Well I sure got all that and more over the 37 years that I spent in the Forces. I went to military college in St Jean, Quebec and in Kingston in Ontario and graduated as an Infantry officer. The infantry is really the heart of the army, the soldiers who, with rifles and other weapons, actually fight face to face with the enemy when required. It is not always easy, often quite physically demanding, but certainly the place where you rely totally on your colleagues and team spirit to get the job done. It is also the place where you develop your closest friendships and lifelong acquaintances.
When I graduated, I joined a francophone regiment, the Royal 22nd Regiment or the “Vandoos” as it is often called in English. It may sound strange as I didn’t speak a word of French when I joined the Forces but the strong bilingualism program at military college allowed me to follow a career where I worked as much in French as in English. I served in several places in Canada but also all around the world. I spent almost 13 years outside of Canada, sometimes with my family but often on my own. I lived and worked in Germany, France, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Syria and Italy. Although I never had to fight in a full war, I saw action as a peacekeeper in Cyprus twice and in the conflict in Bosnia where in spite of people fighting all around us, we were able to prevent the violence expanding and help and protect those most vulnerable. I was also a paratrooper and did a lot of “jumping out of planes” with the Airborne Regiment. That was usually pretty exciting but parachuting at night in the middle of the winter always made things a little scary. I finished my career as a Colonel but for me it was not the rank that was important but that it gave me the privilege, while doing my job, to work with and lead a lot of great and devoted people. Unfortunately, some of those people lost their lives serving our country and trying to make the world a better place. Unlike when I first joined, today there are also a lot of talented, dedicate women serving in the forces, even in the infantry, but there still is room for a lot more.
Glad to hear you have pets, three dogs must be a handful. We always had dogs when I was growing up but now that we are retired we have had cats. Right now, we have “Sammy” (not sure what breed he would be) a rescue cat who travels everywhere with us.
On Remembrance Day I always think of my grandfather who fought in the First World War as well as well as a number of my fellow friends and soldiers who are not with us on this day. Thank you for also thinking of them. Your letter brings to mind the motto of my regiment: “Je me Souviens”, which translates into “I Remember”. Glad you did!
Best regards from an old soldier,
Previous article in this series: