8181 Joe Sharpe motivating student to reach for the stars

Ex Cadets connect with school children- #6 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.

15 November 2017

Dear Zoë:

Thank you for your excellent letter.  You write much better than I did when I was in grade 7, and you are a good artist too!  Your poppy and flag are both very well done.  I think this means that you are an exceptional student with a good future.  Education is one of those things that we, as Canadians, are free to work at, and one of the many freedoms for which we can thank both our veterans and the people now serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

You sound like you and your brother have a busy life.  That is good – both sports and friends are important, and add balance to your life.  I too had a dog when I was young, and we had a family dog when we had our children (one boy and one girl).  Both of my adult children have dogs now – in fact, my daughter has three of them!

My name is Gordon Sharpe, but everyone has always called me Joe.  When I was growing up in the Niagara Peninsula, I was aware that my Father had fought in the Second World War and his Father in the First World War.  Both served in the Canadian Army and returned after each war to be farmers in Ontario.  So, although I grew up on a farm I always wanted to be in the military.  From what I heard about the Army though, I knew I wanted to be in the Air Force!

I left the farm at the end of high school to go to Military College.  I wanted to get an education and learn to fly.  I was lucky enough to get to fly jets in the Royal Canadian Air Force in what was called the air defence mission.  We flew from bases in Northern Quebec and New Brunswick out over the North Atlantic.  Our job was to make sure Russian bombers didn’t come too close to Canadian waters.

During the Cold War we also practiced stopping Russian bombers before they could reach Canadian cities.  Sometimes we also helped civilian airliners that got lost and we even got to fly in airshows like the Toronto Air Show at the CNE, from time to time.  It was always nice to meet other Canadians and tell them about our work.  We were very fortunate that we never had to fight a “hot” war, but I believe we fought and won the Cold War.

I served for thirty-six years in the Air Force and enjoyed it very much.  When I wasn’t flying, like many of our Canadian Armed Forces members today, I continued learning and doing other jobs.  My family and I lived in Victoria, B.C., New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Alberta.  I retired seventeen years ago, but still work as an advisor to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write and express your gratitude.  We are all proud Canadians and pray that our men and women now in uniform remain safe and secure.  I know they are encouraged by support from young people like you.

Jones and Sharpe

Yours sincerely,

Gordon (Joe) Sharpe

RCAF Veteran

CF-101 Voodoo

This letter is the last in our series. A special thanks to all those who provided the letters and photos, in particular,  7964 Don Bell for his initiative for coordinating this project.

Previous article in this series:

Ex Cadets connect with school children: 7964 Don Bell

Ex Cadets connect with school children: 7770 Michael Lawrance #2 in a series

7928 Cajo Brando follows up and connects with three students

7982 Lea Vachon: Going the extra mile for the children

7530 Fletcher Thomson: Sharing his military experience with keen students