Memories of war
Today's veterans share their thoughts on Remembrance Day

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 011/96) - Every year Canadians are bombarded with stories about and from veterans who served in wars fought long ago.

And rightly so. Many elders and seniors who took part in those awful events want us to never forget their sacrifices, so we never allow history to repeat itself.

But what about veterans of more recent policing actions and other international conflicts? How do modern soldiers feel about remembrance services held every Nov. 11?

Sgt. Jeff Phillips, who served in the Gulf War, said Nov. 11 isn't for remembering guys like him.

"Remembrance Day is for remembering those who fell in the big wars, not us," Phillips said.

About one in five of the 110 Armed Forces personnel stationed in Yellowknife at the North's Armed Forces headquarters have served in war zones.

They have been posted in Somalia, the Middle East, Croatia, Bosnia, Cyprus and Honduras, carrying out a wide variety of duties, from transport and supply services to financial and technical support.

They have lugged guns, dodged bullets, kept helicopters flying, helped demobilize Contra rebels in Central America, policed other soldiers, driven trucks and served as observers.

They've worn the blue berets of the UN peacekeepers proudly, as well as their Canadian uniforms.

The soldiers don't think of themselves as heroes. Although bullets were flying, they all said they were just doing their job.

Sgt. Gordon Morris served in Yugoslavia and Cyprus and comes from a military family.

"I've been doing military parades ever since I was a kid," he said. "It's a tradition and an honor to observe Remembrance Day. Being overseas hasn't changed my thoughts."

Cpl. Trevor Ambroziak usually wears his grandfather's medals in Remembrance Day parades. He said being in a war theatre makes Remembrance Day more personal.

"The Remembrance Day parade I'll never forget was when I was with the UN peacekeepers in Yugoslavia in 1993.

"The RCMP were in the unit wearing their red serge, everybody was on parade, when some Croatian MiGs flew overhead. I don't think anyone was on guard, they were all on parade!"

Sgt. Alan Blakney was in charge of helicopter maintenance in Somalia in 1992.

When he was a kid he remembers "freezing his arse off" during Nov. 11 parades and wondering what it was all about.

Cpl. Brian Hewitt says he has respect for soldiers who made Canada the country it is.

"There's nothing like serving overseas to realize what a great country this is," he said.