Sto­ries Share Vet­er­ans

De­seronto stu­dents hear from lo­cal vet­er­ans

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - FRONT PAGE - MEGHAN BALOGH mbalogh@ post­media. com

Gen­er­a­tions sep­a­rated by years and lived ex­pe­ri­ence came to­gether this week to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fices of Canada’s mil­i­tary mem­bers.

Five vet­er­ans span­ning decades of Cana­dian mil­i­tary mis­sions and con­flicts sat be­fore a crowd of grades 6 through 8 stu­dents at De­seronto Pub­lic School on Nov. 6, of­fer­ing sto­ries and anec­dotes about their many years in the Cana­dian Forces.

Stu­dents asked about the vet­er­ans’ com­bat ex­pe­ri­ences, the length of time they had to be away from their fam­i­lies, and the rea­sons they joined the mil­i­tary.

“I wanted to go see the world, and I was lucky enough to do it, “re­tired mas­ter cor­po­ral Dan Cronk said.

Cronk served in Iraq in 1988 dur­ing a UN mis­sion to Iran and Iraq.

One stu­dent asked about com­mu­ni­cat­ing with fam­ily back home when out on mis­sions.

The vets talked about the dif­fer­ent ways they could talk to their fam­i­lies: some by tele­phone, oth­ers by ham ra­dio, and re­tired sergeant Jack As­tles, a vet­eran of the Korean War, only by mail.

“I was over there 14 months, and the only way you could com­mu­ni­cate with home was by let­ter,” As­tles said.

“We had three weeks with no com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and my mom was told that I got killed,” Cronk said. “She didn’t know. It took me five weeks to get ahold of my mom.”

Of the five vet­er­ans, four did not fin­ish high school. They all said the mil­i­tary was the rea­son they felt suc­cess­ful in life.

With­out mil­i­tary ca­reers, the five be­lieved they would likely be farm­ers, gro­cery store clerks, work for a lum­ber mill, and maybe not even be around to­day.

“It was a re­ally good job for me, I can tell you that much,” Cronk said. “I’d go back in a sec­ond.”

The kids asked about life lessons that the re­tired mil­i­tary mem­bers had learned dur­ing their ser­vice.

“One of the big­gest lessons I learned was that you had to trust the peo­ple around you,” Foyle said. “No mat­ter where you went to, you had to ap­pre­ci­ate their job and trust them in their jobs, so that you could do your job. If you didn’t have that trust, then ev­ery­thing went down­hill.”

“I found that the more you put into what you did the more ef­fort I put into what I was do­ing, made it ben­e­fi­cial for every­body else,” Wa­gar told the stu­dents. “Just like school work, if you study you will do well the next day and you’ll be proud of your­self at the end. Same with the mil­i­tary. The more you put into it, the more you will get out.”

One stu­dent asked if be­ing in the mil­i­tary changed peo­ple.

“It does,” re­tired sergeant Kelvin McDon­ald said. “There’s a thing called post- trau­matic stress dis­or­der, and the peo­ple who go over there, quite a few of them come back and they’re not the same. They have to seek med­i­cal help, they have night­mares. It all de­pends on where you were and what you were do­ing.”

A stu­dent won­dered what was the most dif­fi­cult part of serv­ing over­seas.

“You miss your mom and dad. Doesn’t mat­ter how old you get,” Wa­gar said.

Wa­ger spoke about his first com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence and notic­ing the emo­tions of a fel­low sol­dier.

“His eyes were al­most as big as the gog­gles [ of the gas mask he was wear­ing],” Wa­gar said. “That was the first time I’ve seen peo­ple who were re­ally scared. I know I had the same look of fear in my eyes as he had.”

Vet­er­ans from Royal Cana­dian Le­gion Branch 280 in De­seronto have par­tic­i­pated in the event with the lo­cal pub­lic school chil­dren ev­ery year for sev­eral years.

Usu­ally the event is held at the De­seronto Pub­lic Li­brary, but this year it moved to the school due to poor weather and walk­ing con­di­tions for the stu­dents.

Af­ter stu­dents had re­turned to their class­rooms, the vet­er­ans said that talk­ing to kids about mil­i­tary life, war and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences is ben­e­fi­cial for their knowl­edge of the world.

“It gives the kids maybe some in­sight into dif­fer­ent things that hap­pen in the world, not just mil­i­tary- wise,” Foyle said. “It has to give them a bit of in­sight into the fu­ture. It gives them some­thing to think about.”

“They have good ques­tions,” Cronk said.

Foyle wanted the youth to un­der­stand that the mil­i­tary has made him a bet­ter per­son.

“The ca­ma­raderie, the friend­ships you have while you’re in there, it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent than go­ing to school or univer­sity,” Foyle said. “It’s learn­ing to get along with peo­ple, whether you like that per­son or not. You learn to do that. I think that’s an im­por­tant thing to do.”

McDon­ald had one clos­ing mes­sage for peo­ple of the young gen­er­a­tion.

“We were all proud to serve, and would do it again,” McDon­ald said.

Smith said it is dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late the ex­pense of run­ning the pro­gram ev­ery year.

“We de­pend on do­na­tions, but we also have spon­sors who will spon­sor a fam­ily and those spon­sors might be schools, busi­nesses, churches and church groups and in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies,” she ex­plained. “It’s hard to put a dol­lar fig­ure on it be­cause we don’t know un­til the end of regis­tra­tion how many fam­i­lies we have and how many will be as­sist­ing. Last year we had 400 fam­i­lies and that could be a fam­ily of two or a fam­ily of nine.”

In ad­di­tion to do­na­tions, there are also a num­ber of fundrais­ing events to sup­port the pro­gram.

Turkey bingo will be held at the Belleville Club on Tues­day, Dec. 4, at 7 p. m. with the doors open- ing at 6: 45 p. m. A pair of shows will also be held for the sec­ond an­nual Christ­mas Spec­tac­u­lar at St. Columba Pres­by­te­rian Church on Dec. 2, ( 2: 30 p. m.) and Dec. 5, ( 7: 30 p. m.) which will of­fer sup­port to the pro­gram.

EN­CORE, a mu­si­cal jour­ney through the ‘ 60s and ‘ 70s, will be held at Maranatha Au­di­to­rium, 100 Col­lege St., West on Fri­day, Nov. 30 at 7 p. m. and on Dec. 1 at 2 p. m. and again at 7 p. m. Tick­ets are $ 20 each and can be pur­chased at the door or in ad­vance at the Maranatha of­fice, 613- 9622062

Christ­mas Shar­ing cov­ers Belleville and sur­round­ing areas; west to and in­clud­ing White Road, south into Amelias­burg and north but not in­clud­ing Stir­ling, Madoc, and Tweed, east to De­soronto.

Pic­ton, Tweed, Madoc and Stir­ling have their own pro­grams.

Regis­tra­tion ends Nov. 30, and is on the sec­ond floor of Cen­tury Vil­lage , 199 Front St., Suite 206A. The of­fice is open from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m., week­days only.

Ap­pli­cants must bring proof of in­come ( cheque/ pay stub, so­cial as­sis­tance state­ment ( if ap­pli­ca­ble)) health cards and proof of ad­dress.

MEGHAN BALOGH/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Re­tired mil­i­tary mem­bers Gerry Foyle, Dan Cronk, Jack As­tles, Kelvin McDon­ald and Karl Wa­gar spoke with grades 6 through 8 stu­dents at De­seronto Pub­lic School on Tues­day.

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