In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

November 11, 2009

Posted 11/11/2009 by Grant Mitchell

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I had a remarkable day today.

It started when I went to the West Edmonton Mall arena where the Edmonton Jasper Place Branch of the Legion holds its annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. It is a great place for it as there are two levels of floors surrounding the rink so many people can easily see what is going on with the ceremony.

Normally, I just quietly and unobtrusively attend a ceremony each year. It is a very personal time for me because I am reminded intensely of my father and grandfathers. My father’s father served in the merchant marines in WWI and my mother’s father in the army. He was very seriously wounded, spent a year in hospital and lost much of one foot.

My father joined the Black Watch in Montreal in 1939 and retired from the army in 1969. In the interim, he fought in Europe in WWII, was wounded in the Black Forest and awarded the Military Cross. He actually fought for the British Black Watch through the Canloan program where Canada loaned officers – 700 of them – to the British, who had lost so many of their own. As a result, we have a picture of my father with Field Marshal Montgomery who personally awarded him the medal. He also served in Korea and in Vietnam on the International Control Commission. He was a serious soldier in that very Canadian military way; he was I am sure a warrior when he had to be, but projected a certain kind of gentleness and kindness that reassured you he would do whatever he could to avoid it.

I was 1 ½ years old when he went to Korea; so do not remember that. I was 12 when he went to Vietnam and I remember him leaving and coming back vividly. Forty-six years later, I can still see him stepping off the bottom stair from the plane exit ramp as I looked on from an observation deck in the Winnipeg airport.  I was so happy to see him and so relieved that he had made it back. It had been the longest year of my life and is to this day. I still have these beautifully written letters that he sent me throughout the year.

So, I have been thinking about all those people still waiting for someone to come home and of those for whom someone never will come home.

I arrived at the ceremony with all that on my mind but no official duties were scheduled for me. Then, an old friend and colleague in the Legislature who is now a City Councillor, Karen Liebovici, realized that no MPs were there to fulfill the federal role in the ceremony. So, soon I was been asked to do that. Minutes later I was speaking to several thousand people, presenting a wreath and reviewing the troops. It was a wonderful experience for me. I was privileged to do it.

I said in my remarks that while I was to make the formal federal, Parliamentary recognition and honoring, this event each year is very personal for me and, as I noted, it probably was for everyone there. We all know a father or mother, brother or sister, cousin or friend who has been or is in the military. And so we all know their quiet courage, contribution, service and sacrifice. We know that what they are personifies what this country is. We are very lucky to know them, or sadly to have known them. For me, it is my father and grandfathers.

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