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Remembrance Day: The stories behind your medals

Canadian troops honoured for service and sacrifice

Last Updated: Nov. 6, 2013

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Your stories: War medals

We asked you for your stories about Canadian soldiers recognized for sacrifice and service and you responded with photos and tributes and personal stories.

Read a selection of recollections including stories about peacekeepers and soldiers who served in Afghanistan and the Second World War. Scroll through the interactive by selecting the names below or using the arrows at the sides.

(Photo: Nancy Shields)

John Allen

My Grandfather was wounded while on the Egyptian Campaign, serving in the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwell's Regiment, and orderly to Lord Kitchener. I've included a family photo. Our family is very proud of their service and also my great grandfather's. [We have] a long family history, in first the British, and then the Canadian Army. The medals of my grandfather are also unique because although they were an infantry battalion, they were mounted on camels.

-- Dwight Allen

Aaron Anderson

Aaron received the South-West Asia Service Medal for his 2006 tour in Afghanistan while based at CFB Edmonton. Subsequently, he and his unit were awarded the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation, recognizing their combat readiness under strong Taliban resistance during his tour. The Sacrifice Medal was awarded to him on July 18, 2013 in Halifax in recognition of being wounded in action. This particular medal means much more to both of us, as it recognizes PTSD as an injury; a rare acknowledgement and step forward for those who suffer. Aaron retired in 2012, after a little more than 10 years of service.

-- Shannon Burns, Aaron's wife

Dave Buck

Major D.O. Buck CD, BA, MCGI. MIExpE, RNZALR, Staff Officer 2 Ammunition, Defence Logistics Command The medals are (left to right): Special Service Medal with 'Peace-Paix' Bar; Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal; United Nations Medal for Special Service; New Zealand Armed Forces Award (awarded for 15 years of exemplary service as a commissioned officer in the Regular Forces); the New Zealand Defence Service Medal with clasp 'Regular'; and Canadian Forces Decoration with Clasp (represents 22 years service).

These medals represent almost 40 years of service, most of which was in ammunition and bomb disposal. My 22 1/2 years in the Canadian Forces, included a one-year tour (1974 - 75) with the Cambodia Mine Action Centre. My job there was supposed to be the Technical Advisor for Logistics, but given my background, I spent more than half my time supervising in the minefields. Most rewarding year of my life.

Angus Rinn

My father joined the Canadian Army in the summer of 1940 as an infantryman. Two years went by and he had risen to the rank of sergeant, but he still hadn't left the province. He volunteered for unspecified "hazardous duty" and found himself on a train to Helena, Mont. There, he became one of the original members of the legendary First Special Service Force.

He was sent to Italy, where in the miserable winter of 1943-44 the FSSF captured a series of desperately contested mountains south of Rome. The men of the FSSF where well-trained in night operations, and they used this expertise to make frequent raids into the surrounding German perimeter. During one of these raids my father was badly wounded. My father's back was riddled with German "potato-masher" (grenade) shrapnel, in spite of which he somehow managed to get back in the dark to his own lines.

He was admitted to an American field hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. It was the practice of high-ranking American officers to visit their convalescing soldiers in order to raise morale, at which time the wounded would be awarded the Purple Heart. Unaware that my father was a Canadian and not an American, he too received the Purple Heart, which was pinned to his pillow. When the error was later discovered, the medal was taken away. When the Force was subsequently disbanded, he wore a wound stripe instead on the sleeve of his Canadian battledress tunic. Nonetheless, I have always thought it unfortunate that he should be denied this American award: after all, he had fought and was wounded alongside his American comrades, and German shrapnel made no distinction between which of the two countries he came from.

-- Richard Rinn, Angus's son

Paul O'Brien

I was awarded The Canadian Forces Decoration (with bar) in 2007 for 22 years of service. The next medal is the United Nations Protection Force Medal. I was awarded this in 1995 for my service with the UN in Bosnia as a member of the Canadian Contingent in Visoko. The third medal is the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal. This is awarded to anyone who has served with the Canadian Armed Forces in a recognized UN peacekeeping mission.
My decorations mean many things to me. They remind me of the extended time from home and the sacrifices made by my family so that I was able to pursue my career. They are also a symbol of pride in that I was able to go overseas in the service of peace as part of a UN force, and as a fighting soldier working to bring freedom to others who could not stand up for themselves. I always think of my friends and comrades who paid the ultimate price for their commitment to service.

Desmond Morrison

Cpl. Desmond Morrison emigrated to Canada from Australia he joined the 2nd Bn PPCLI in very late 1940's. He spent two years with the 2nd in Germany after his service in Canada with the 2nd Bn. Desmond's wife also served as a RAF operative in the 2nd war. He also was a member of the Victoria Police Force. In this photo, he is receiving his NATO service medal -- almost 50 years after the event. After the war and serving with the British and Australian military, Desmond returned to Australia where he served with the Northern Territory Police. He also earned the Australian National Medal.

After retiring from service, he continued to travel around the world sharing his knowledge and training with variety of Government Agencies in Canada, the US, the UK and Hong Kong. He passed away in July 2013 at the age of 87.

-- John Cleland

Stephen A Moffatt & Rita B (Lamb) Moffatt

Every Remembrance Day, my grandmother would give me her War medals to take to show the other kids in the class. My grandmother was part of the Canadian Women Army Corp. She was born and raised in Ontario. She joined the CWACs while she was working as a secretary in Ottawa. She took her basic training in Kitchener.

When she joined the army, she wanted to drive a truck, but because she already had her secretarial training, she was posted to the Currie Barracks in Calgary as a secretary. In this picture I used her uniform, medals, ration book, mirror and identification card.

Although, I never knew my grandfather, the good-looking guy in the picture, he was a signalman/lineman in the Army. He was born and raised in Alberta and he took his basic training in Kingston before he was shipped overseas serving in the UK, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland. His total overseas service was 35 months.

They met in Edmonton following the war, got married and raised four children. Their names are enshrined on the Wall of Pride at the Kipnes Centre for Veterans in Edmonton.

-- Nancy Shields

Bill Laidlaw

As a member of the Cryptologic Direct Support Element (CDSE) onboard HMCS Athabaskan from August 1990 until February 1991, during Operation Friction (more commonly known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm) I was awarded the Gulf and Kuwait Medal. The bar to the medal recognizes that I was present during the actual war. As a result of our defence contributions to the Task Group, we were awarded Command Commendations.

From February to August 2003, I returned to the Persian Gulf as the Team Leader of the CDSE onboard HMCS Fredericton during Operation Apollo and received the South West Asia Service Medal (SWASM) for being deployed and in direct support of the operations against terrorism.

As a Communicator Research tradesman, it was required to take part in activities and operations under exceptional circumstances. I completed 5 tours of CFS Alert, Canada's most northern permanently inhabited establishment. Three 6 month tours (April to October 1976, October 1979 to April 1980, December 1982 to June 1983), one 5 month tour (January 1988 to June 1988) and one 4 month tour (January 1992 to May 1992). For this, the Special Service Medal with ALERT bar was awarded. The Canadian Forces' Decoration is awarded to members of the Canadian Forces who have completed twelve years of service and have a good record of conduct. The bar was awarded for every subsequent period of ten years of qualifying service. I completed 31.5 years in the CF.

As a third generation Canadian military member, I took great pride in representing Canada worldwide. I had a very rewarding career and deployed when my country asked me despite the risks and personal sacrifices.

A. Stewart West

I honour my Dad and particularly pay tribute on Remembrance Day; It is not just another holiday to me. Although I am not allowed to wear my Dad's medals I do take them to services on the 11th of November, as a way of remembering his devoted service. My Dad was very proud to serve his country. In recognition of his service in the Egypt and Israel he, along with others was awarded the Nobel Peace Diploma. In a couple of the photos are the crosses my Dad made in his model of the cemetery he took care of - every cross had the name of the soldier he helped bury, he still had his Service Book and it held all the names and details. His tie is in the background, he was a Nova Scotia boy who was born in Springhill.

-- Heather West

Wayne Sandford Pearce

My grandfather joined the Royal Canadian Airforce in 1935 at the age of 20.

He went on to specialize in photography and became the Commanding Officer of a mobile Photo Reconnaissance Unit during WWII. His unit took arial photographs, processed them and then used them to provide tactical intelligence to front line troops. His unit was ground-based and operated immediately behind front line troops. His unit documented atrocities at the Belsen concentration camp arriving there moments after American troops liberated it. He was so horrified with what he saw there that he ordered his men to document what they saw and write letters home so that it would never be forgotten. My parents still have his letters and personal photographs that he took there.

He had many amazing adventures during and after the war when he served in Ottawa. He shared all his amazing stories with me as I grew up. Inspired by his stories and adventures I decided to join the military as a young man. I am very thankful of the time I spent with him growing up and as an adult. I am also thankful that he encouraged me to join the military myself. I am presently an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy and am Captain of the HMCS ORIOLE.

-- Lieutenant Commander Jeff Kibble, Captain HMCS ORIOLE

Geoffery George Wallace Ellwood, CWO

Born in London, Ont., in September 1921, Geoffrey Ellwood was the eldest son. He was a career soldier serving 38 and a half years in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and the Canadian Forces. Captured at Dieppe, he was a prisoner of war for 995 days, during which his hands were tied and shackled for over a year. He was released after a 30-day forced march, including only three meals for the prisoners; this march has been called the "Death March". Returning home, he was stationed in the Canadian north for 12 years on the N.W.T. and Yukon, radio system. He also served in the Korean Conflict for a year and on the first contingent of peacekeepers to the Belgian Congo in 1960. He was past-president of the Atlantic Chapter POW Association, was a life member of the Centennial Legion, Branch No. 160, and was very active in his community in Dartmouth NS. Geoff died in January 2009.

-- James Ellwood

Douglas Drew

My air force life began August 5th, 1940. I had some training in Canada, and in January 1942 left for overseas. I joined a newly formed Canadian Fighter Squadron the 417. On April 13, 1942 the Squadron left Scotland by ship for the Middle East, landing in Egypt June 4, 1942. 1939-45 Star, Africa Star and North Africa 1942-43 Clasp, Italy Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, War Medal 1939-45, Canadian Forces Decoration and Clasp, Malta George Cross Fiftieth Anniversary Medal

The Squadron spent 1 1/2 years in North Africa, six weeks in Malta, 1 1/2 years in Sicily and Italy. We were the only Canadian Fighter Squadron in the Middle East. After my three years of service overseas I returned to Britain and then sent home to Canada.

My peacetime service was spent in numerous stations in Canada until I retired June 16, 1973.