MNO Veterans Keep the Faith
“It is something that never happened to me before in my life,” explained Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) veteran Wilfred Rochon, when speaking about attending this year’s national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa, “it is one of those things that I will always remember, like joining the army.” Wilfred was selected by the MNO Veterans’ Council to attend the National Ceremony. The Council had raised funds at the MNO Annual General Assembly in Parry Sound in August to support bringing World War II veterans to the Ottawa Ceremony, and these funds helped cover the costs of Wilfred coming from Windsor. Wilfred had never attended the national ceremony before and the experience was very special to him. Participating in the ceremony with his fellow veterans he said: “Felt good, it felt like being home.”
Wilfred served in the Canadian Army from 1944 to 1946. He served in Vernon, British Columbia, with troops being prepared for an anticipated invasion of Japan and was then transferred to Gravenhurst, Ontario, where he was a guard for Prisoners of War (mainly German Officers). Wilfred was always keenly aware of his Métis heritage and joined the MNO in 1998, when along with fellow MNO veteran, Earl Scofield, they formed the Windsor Métis Council. Wilfred was the Council’s first President.
Wilfred was joined at the ceremony by two other MNO Veterans, George Kelly and Shaun Redmond, and by Executive Senator Reta Gordon. Senator Gordon and Shaun have for the last several years participated in the National Ceremony by laying a wreath at the National Cenotaph on behalf of the MNO. Shaun comes from a long line of Métis who have been involved in the military going back as far as the War of 1812. His own illustrious career, which started in 1973, includes service in the Air Force, Army and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and he continues to serve. He is currently an instructor for Air Cadets. Remembrance Day is especially poignant for Shaun because he remembers his uncle who was killed serving in World War II. He is proud that for the last several years his own son, who is a Sergeant in the Navy, has served as sentry at the Cenotaph in Cornwall, where his uncle’s name is inscribed. A member of the MNO for over a decade and a regular at the National Ceremony, Shaun says: “I am humbled every time I see the war veterans.”
George Kelly joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952 in the hope that he would be assigned to the Korean War. “There is a strong military tradition in my family,” he explained, “my uncles and grandfather served in the hope they could make Canada a better place, so, I was determined that when I get my opportunity, I will do my part as well.” George did not get his wish, however, and instead was assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Command based in Europe. He spent most of his military career in that area of operation and left the Navy in 1957 as a Leading Seaman with responsibility for aiming and firing the large guns on battleships. A founding member of the MNO, he has been attending National Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa for over 20 years. “I knew many veterans who did not come back,” he reflected, “when the call of duty called, they came to their country’s defence – now when the call of duty is made new people still go.”
These three veterans are part of a long tradition of military service among the Métis and between them they include service in the Army, Navy, Air Force and RCMP. Like all veterans they participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies not because they seek any honour for themselves but because they wish to keep the faith with friends and family members they knew who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect freedom.
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