Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation
Spaniard’s Bay veteran humbled by recognition
Two days before Memorial Day in Newfoundland, Jack Mercer of Spaniard’s Bay was one of two Newfoundlanders presented with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation during a ceremony in Halifax on June 29.
When contacted by phone last week Mercer said the event was all the more special as his son Terry Mercer was with him during the ceremony.
“My wife is a sick person. She’s had health problems for 38 years. She couldn’t go with me. And when I suggested (to Veterans Affairs Canada) if my son could accompany me on that journey, they agreed with it and it worked out just great.”
The commendation is presented to individuals who have contributed to the care and well being of veterans and to the remembrance of their contributions, sacrifice and achievements.
It is intended primarily for veterans, but in some circumstances may also be awarded to non-veterans.
“It was a lovely ceremony and we had a lovely meal afterwards,” Mercer said of the ceremony.
A Korea War veteran, Mercer is an active, longstanding member of the Royal Canadian Legion and has held the position of service officer for 27 years.
Through the decades, he has continued to provide advice and assistance to veterans and their dependents about their eligibility for benefits and programs provided by Veterans Affairs Canada. He also does his best to answer any other questions they may have.
The commendation bar presented to Mercer includes a bar, which can be worn below official decorations on a veteran’s blazer, as well as a lapel pin for civilian wear and a certificate.
Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn presented Mercer with his award.
“ While many might be quick to speak about the importance of volunteerism,” Jean-Pierre Blackburn, said, “ the individuals being commended today have made it their reality. This is truly what makes them special, their willingness to act and help,” the Veterans Affairs Minister said in a prepared statement.
Mercer volunteers his time visiting ailing veterans and is a life member of the Royal Canadian Legion and a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal and Palm Leaf - the Legion’s highest honour.
Spending time with veterans gives him as much pleasure as it does his comrades, Mercer says.
“I visit them at their homes and in hospitals and sit down and spend a little time with them. Our (Legion) branch has a few wheelchairs on hand and I try to keep them in good shape in case one of our veterans needs one,” Mercer says.
With only a few veterans left, Mercer says, he and other members of the Legion make sure they stop by to help celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.
Volunteering has enriched his life for many decades, he says.
“ I’ve been blessed with half-decent health and I’m happy to be able to do whatever I can for others, especially our veterans.”
Originally from Shearstown, Mercer spent 25 years working for the provincial department of justice, much of that time spent as a warder at the Salmonier Correctional Institution. He retired in 1981 after attaining the rank of sergeant. “ If anybody asked what I did for a living down through the years, I used to tell them that I was in jail for 25 years,” the friendly man jokes.
Mercer said he’s humbled to be recognized by Veterans Affairs Canada as well as his local Legion branch.
“ You do what you do and you don’t realize that people are keeping tabs on you. They appreciate what you do.
Clement Lambe of Marystown was the other Newfoundlander presented with the minister’s commendation during the ceremony.
Jack Mercer of Spaniard’s Bay (left) accepts the minister’s commendation from Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn during a June 29 ceremony in Halifax.