Big Val­ley Le­gion vol­un­teers share par­al­lel mil­i­tary careers

The Drumheller Mail - - Lest We Forget - Pa­trick Ko­lafa

The mil­i­tary is a ca­reer choice that can take young men and women down myr­iad paths. For two Big Val­ley men, each took par­al­lel paths, one in the Navy and one in the Air Force.

Lorne Parkin and Bob Boswell are both heav­ily in­volved in their com­mu­nity as vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing the Big Val­ley Le­gion. Boswell Joined up with the Navy in Jan­uary of 1959. Parkin joined the Air Force in Septem­ber of the same year.

“I was al­ler­gic to grain dust for one thing,” laughs

Parkin, who grew up in Kitscoty when asked why he joined. “I saw a CF100 fly­ing down the Ver­mil­lion River, and he pulled it straight up over the bridge. I was about 14 or 15 and I knew where I was go­ing right from that day. I stuck to it in high school and joined up.”

He was al­most 18 when he joined. His par­ents had to sign a waiver. He first trained in St. Jean in Que­bec and then did his trade at Camp Bor­den in On­tario. That is where he trained on air­frame.

Boswell, orig­i­nally from Nova Sco­tia, did his ba­sic train­ing at Corn­wal­lis and he joined as an ap­pren­tice.

“I had an un­cle in the Navy and I re­ally looked up to him,” said Boswell.

He was a Ma­rine En­gi­neer and his re­spon­si­bil­ity was ship propul­sion, power generation, and main­te­nance. He started his ca­reer on the East Coast in Hal­i­fax. He served some time in Ot­tawa and then spent the re­main­der of his ca­reer on the West Coast.

Parkin’s ca­reer took him overseas on NATO tours. He was in France from 1964 to 1976 and Ger­many from 1983 to 1986.

“We ba­si­cally did the same jobs as we did in Canada. But you would al­ways train for the worst… we ba­si­cally trained for nu­clear war,” said Parkin.

Boswell re­mem­bers be­ing is­sued a res­pi­ra­tor and out­fit when you would join a ship to pro­tect them­selves from a nu­clear en­vi­ron­ment.

Boswell’s ca­reer took home all over the world on the high seas. He sailed all around South Amer­ica, Europe, and Asia.

“We would train with other navies so if some­thing did hap­pen, we were pre­pared,” said Boswell.

The clos­est he came to en­gage­ment was at the height of the Cold War, his ship sailed to sup­port the US dur­ing the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis.

“We were there to do what needs to be done. To an en­gi­neer, it was just an­other day. I had to get up and keep the fire burn­ing in the boiler and keep the steam up,” he said.

Parkin said the clos­est he came to wartime con­di­tions was while in Co­mox, where they sup­ported the search and res­cue.

“When­ever you had a search, you go all out, and air­craft hours didn’t mat­ter,” he said.

Some­thing that changed over his ca­reer was the di­min­ish­ing size of the mil­i­tary.

“We had the third big­gest Air Force af­ter WW2, peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that. The wartime build-up was a lot big­ger than most re­al­ize,” Parkin said.

Boswell agrees and said he saw the Navy shrink over his ca­reer. He said they had 400 ships in 1945. When he joined in 1959,

there were 60. When he left in 1991, there were 25 ves­sels.

They also agree the Cana­dian Mil­i­tary was one of the best trained.

“I be­lieve we had the best pi­lots,” said Parkin, adding they would of­ten top US pi­lots at train­ing com­pe­ti­tions. Boswell agrees.

“We don’t have the best equip­ment, but we are re­ally good at what we do,” said Boswell.

Both whole­heart­edly loved their careers.

“I’d do it all again in a heart­beat,” said Parkin.

Boswell hasn’t been on the wa­ter since he re­tired.

“I was very for­tu­nate, I en­joyed life on the sea,” said Boswell.

To­day, they con­sider their work at the Le­gion as pay­ing back for the vet­er­ans that came be­fore them.

mailphoto by Pa­trick Ko­lafa

Bob Boswell joined the Navy in Jan­uary 1959 and Lorne Parkin Joined the Air Force in Septem­ber of the same year. They both re­tired to Big Val­ley where they are ac­tive vol­un­teers.

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