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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2023 - Page 3

An exemplary peacekeeper

Colonel (Ret’d) Donald Ethell
Photo: Veterans Affairs Canada

Colonel (Ret’d) Donald Ethell is one of Canada’s most decorated peacekeepers. Don was born into a military family in Vancouver in 1937 and always had a strong interest in serving his country. He was just 17 years old when he joined the Canadian Army.

Don became an officer in 1972. Canada was a leader in international peacekeeping in the post-war years and he served in 14 challenging missions. He deployed to hot spots like Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Central America and the Balkans.

Throughout his 38 years in uniform, Don personified what it takes to be a soldier of peace: commitment, fairness, composure, respect and humility. His post-military life has also been impressive. In 2010 he was named Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. If there was an all-star team for Canadian peacekeepers, Colonel (Ret’d) Ethell would be the captain.

A proud career in uniform

Clarence “Gus” Este
Photo: Black Canadian Veterans Stories

Clarence “Gus” Este was born in Montreal in 1931 and joined the Canadian Army while he was still a teenager. He served overseas in the Korean War as a medical assistant. After a brief period back in civilian life after the conflict, he re-enlisted and joined the Canadian Postal Corps.

Gus went on to have a long career in military logistics. He rose through the ranks and was commissioned as an officer. He served in overseas peacekeeping missions to Egypt and Cyprus, and also deployed to West Germany for Cold War duty. Gus left the military in 1987 after 33 years of proud service.

In retirement he has been active in his community and with Veterans organizations. His remarkable service to his country and to his fellow citizens was recognized in special ways. The City of Ottawa renamed a park in his honour in 2013. Gus also received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation in 2015 for his lifetime contributions. We salute Gus Este – a Canadian who has helped make our country a better place.

Fighting an invisible enemy

Lieutenant-Colonel George Nasmith
Photo: Public domain

There is an old saying that when one door closes, another door opens. This certainly applied to George Nasmith, who wanted to join the Canadian military when the First World War broke out in 1914. However, at only 1.37 meters (4 foot 6 inches) tall, he did not meet the height requirements to enlist.

But George was a water purification specialist. One thing all soldiers need is clean drinking water. Despite his height, the army recruited him for his expertise. He soon took command of the newly-created Canadian Army Hydrological Corps. As one of the unit’s first jobs, Lieutenant-Colonel Nasmith set up a sanitary water system at Camp Valcartier in September 1914.

In Europe, George served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and ran the No. 5 (Canadian) Mobile Laboratory. George was an accomplished chemist. He set up mobile water purification units to battle an invisible threat: polluted water.

During the 2nd Battle of Ypres in Belgium, the Germans launched a poison chlorine gas attack on April 22, 1915. Thinking quickly, George helped our soldiers create makeshift gas masks to protect themselves from the deadly fumes.

It’s impossible to measure George Nasmith’s contributions to the Allied efforts in the First World War. But his special expertise likely saved many lives from enemies too small to be seen.

Remembrance blooms

Sergeant Fumio Tatsuoka
Photo: Canadian Virtual War Memorial

More than 200 Japanese Canadians served our country during the First World War. One of these soldiers was Fumio Tatsuoka. He was born in Japan in 1888 and later immigrated to Canada. He was a 28-year-old store clerk when he decided to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Fumio enlisted in Calgary, Alberta, in July 1916 and would become a sergeant in the 50th Battalion.

He was killed in action on August 20, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70. More than 50 Japanese Canadian soldiers lost their lives during the First World War. Fumio is commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. His name is also engraved on the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Vancouver. Beautiful cherry trees surround the monument. The colourful blossoms bloom every spring before withering and falling off. This is symbolic of the loss of life in times of war. Yet the blossoms return every year in a perpetual cycle of hope and renewal. What a special place to remember brave soldiers like Fumio.

A family tradition of Indigenous warriors

Sergeant Wendy Jocko with a local child she befriended in Bosnia.
Photo submitted

Wendy Jocko was born in Pembroke, Ontario. She is part of an Indigenous family with a long military tradition stretching back to the War of 1812. This inspired her to join the Canadian Armed Forces when she was 19 years old.

Wendy served in Canada and also took part in two peacekeeping missions in the Balkans in the 1990s. But it was her time in Bosnia that stood out for her the most. The devastation and human misery were hard for her to witness. She often passed by a family living in a tiny plywood dwelling near a landfill. Wendy wanted to help. So, every day she would visit them, bringing fruit and milk. She was happy to make a small difference for these people in need. The mission there was a life altering experience for Wendy.

After 23 years in uniform, Sergeant Jocko left the military. She went on to become the Chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. Her family’s proud tradition of military service has continued with her son, who also joined the Canadian Armed Forces.

Driven to serve

Miriam “Mimi” Freedman offering a Hanukkah gift to a little girl in December 1944.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-188717

Miriam “Mimi” Freedman was born in Montreal in 1911. She would be one of twelve members of her family who served in the Second World War. After signing up in 1939, she soon joined the London Ambulance Service. In 1943, Mimi became a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC). She was a driver with the Canadian Military Headquarters.

Mimi’s service kept her close to the front lines for much of the war. She landed in Normandy in August 1944. She followed the advancing Allied troops through Belgium and into Germany. Her amazing ability to speak English, French, Dutch, German and Flemish was often put to good use. She translated during conversations with the local people and helped interrogate German prisoners of war. She also interpreted at court hearings after the conflict ended.

Staff Sergeant Freedman returned to Canada in 1946 and left the military. She earned a Mention in Dispatches for her remarkable military service. Freedman is the only known Jewish Canadian woman decorated for bravery during the war.

In a peacekeeper’s own words…

Canadian Armed Forces Veteran George Villeneuve being interviewed in 2013.
Photo: Veterans Affairs Canada

A peacekeeper’s role is very challenging. George Villeneuve of Ottawa was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. What he experienced there had a great impact on him.

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