Canada 150 fam­ily project

Kerri Tadeu and her brother, mas­ter cor­po­ral (re­tired) Collin Fitzger­ald, travel across the coun­try to thank vet­er­ans for their years of ser­vice

The Telegram (St. John's) - - PROVINCIAL - BY BETH PEN­NEY SPE­CIAL TO THE TELE­GRAM tele­[email protected]­gram.com

Brother, sis­ter and kids travel across coun­try to thank vet­er­ans

Cana­di­ans are cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th birth­day in a va­ri­ety of ways this year, and Kerri Tadeu and her brother, mas­ter cor­po­ral (re­tired) Collin Fitzger­ald, dis­cov­ered their own mem­o­rable way to cel­e­brate it.

The two have started an an­nual ini­tia­tive to visit 150 vet­er­ans liv­ing in nurs­ing homes across Canada to thank them for their years of ser­vice.

The jour­ney was in­spired by Fitzger­ald as a way to thank the Cana­dian Armed Forces (CAF) for his 15 years of ser­vice.

Fitzger­ald is a re­cip­i­ent of the Medal of Mil­i­tary Valour, which is awarded to a mem­ber of the Cana­dian Forces who has com­mit­ted an act of valour or de­vo­tion in the pres­ence of the en­emy.

The pair be­gan their coastto-coast tour of Canada on May 28 in Kelowna, B.C., and moved east. They brought their chil­dren, Pey­ton Fitzger­ald, and Emma Tadeu, to three of the 10 prov­inces they vis­ited.

“We met in­cred­i­ble vet­er­ans from the Sec­ond World War era,” said Tadeu. “The av­er­age age was 95 years old, and the old­est was 105.”

Fitzger­ald and Tadeu

thanked every vet­eran with a pre­sen­ta­tion and a spe­cial thank you card.

“We would tell the vet­er­ans, Emma, in Grade 3, is stand­ing on guard for you now,” said Tadeu. “Be­cause you spent many years stand­ing on guard for her.”

For Fitzger­ald, be­ing able to pay his re­spects to the CAF was a huge part of his re­cov­ery process.

“This wasn’t my brother’s story all along,” said Tadeu. “He has been strug­gling with PTSD for many years now.”

The fog has lifted, and Fitzger­ald

is ready to start serv­ing his coun­try, this time as a vet­eran.

“When sol­diers are in­vited to go home and rest be­cause of men­tal-health is­sues, they lose fo­cus and lack hav­ing a mis­sion,” said Tadeu. “By us cre­at­ing an op­por­tu­nity for my brother to serve Canada as a vet­eran, it helps his men­tal health.

“My brother will serve Canada un­til he takes his last breath.

The pair hope to in­spire other wounded vet­er­ans to think of ways they can still serve their

coun­try.

“Not ev­ery­one will be able to travel across Canada like us,” said Tadeu. “But think, if we can travel across Canada, you can have lunch with a vet­eran in a lo­cal nurs­ing home.

“Our ob­jec­tive is to in­spire and mo­ti­vate fel­low Cana­di­ans to shift the mind­set away from plac­ing sole re­spon­si­bil­ity on Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada to com­bat the epi­demic of vet­eran sui­cide,” said Tadeu. “In­stead, start ask­ing your­self, ‘What can I do to serve vet­er­ans in the com­mu­nity and coun­try?’”

The last stop on their jour­ney was Newfoundla­nd.

“Trav­el­ling with chil­dren al­ways makes things a lit­tle more hec­tic,” said Tadeu.

Some­where be­tween the air­port, car rental shop and ho­tel, Tadeu lost her wal­let. The wal­let con­tained $1,200 cash, diamond ear­rings, a pass­port and IDS.

“My whole life was in that wal­let,” said Tadeu. “I didn’t have much hope in get­ting it back.”

The next morn­ing, while on the way out the door to visit the nurs­ing home, Tadeu re­ceived a call in her room. It was the re­cep­tion­ist at the front desk in­form­ing her that the wal­let had been re­turned.

This act of kind­ness caused a chain re­ac­tion.

“I knew I had to do some­thing mem­o­rable with the money that had been re­turned to me,” said Tadeu. “So I started spread­ing it around the city.”

Tadeu gave money to mu­si­cians on Duck­worth Street af­ter min­utes of speak­ing with them. She also gave money to a shut­tle bus driver, who is plan­ning on re­turn­ing to school in Septem­ber.

Tadeu is still in con­tact with the re­cep­tion­ist at the ho­tel, and hopes to find the per­son who re­turned the wal­let.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Pre­sent­ing thank you cards to Princess Pa­tri­cia Light In­fantry vet­er­ans are (from left) for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral Adrienne Clark­son, Emma Tadeu, Kerri Tadeu, Pey­ton Fitzger­ald and mas­ter cor­po­ral (re­tired) Collin Fitzger­ald.

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