Looking Back

Heroes Remember

Interviewer: After you retired did you ever think back to the service that you've given to your country and to the world through this? You think of it every once in a while, especially with what's going on now with Iraq and other parts of the world, different conflicts that are going on and you don't really have an insight into what should happen or what could happen because in one year things change so much that it's a different world. People are doing things for different reasons, but as far as missing the military, well after close to thirty-eight years you miss it occasionally. You miss different parts of it, for the most part of thirty years I was flying and one thing I don't miss at all is getting up at two o'clock in the morning to fly fourteen hour missions, it's a lot nicer just to stay in bed. But it is different, getting used to not doing that type of constant activity and really leading a retired life but I'm enjoying retirement so... Interviewer: Are you proud of the service that you've given? Yes. It was a long career and, but very enjoyable from a lot of aspects. Some of the things were very difficult to do at the time and it's hard climbing on an airplane with a suitcase and not really knowing for sure where you're going. As we did in Desert Shield we knew that we were going to the Middle East somewhere, we didn't know whether, we didn't know, our bosses knew, but we didn't know when we left for security reasons whether we were going to Saudi Arabia or Turkey or exactly where we were going. And we did not know when we were coming home, how long we were going to be there. As a matter of fact I phoned my wife in early December and, "we have no idea, just go buy yourself a Christmas present because I'm probably not going to be home for Christmas." So she did, and as it turned out, I did get home for Christmas, I was home for about a month I guess, for my upgrade training and then deployed again. The majority of the people didn't get that chance, we went in August or September and they didn't get home until March or April. And they had no idea from day to day, you know, are we going home next week? Are we going home a month from now? When is the war going to start? And then well the wars over? When's it gonna wind down? When are we gonna be able to go home? It's difficult from that aspect of it of not knowing, if you know than you can start counting the days and that type of thing but if you don't know it's just, there's nothing to count, it's just one more day that you're there. Interviewer: Did you find it difficult having your wife here, your family here and being gone so much? Is that difficult on the family? It probably is, but when you grow up that way, and I joined the military when I was seventeen and it was just a natural thing to do. Whether I was in the navy or in the air force, when I was in the navy we were going to sea for four, five, six months of the year. We were just gone, and the family were, they were used to that. That was just the way we lived. My oldest son grew up that way himself and if he is, if he's at one place for more than four or five years he's, it's time to move on, it's time to go somewhere. Because we, very seldom stayed anywhere longer than four years. I think the five years in Oklahoma was the longest I was in any one place in my entire career. The majority of it was three years or four years and your family gets so used to that and, which is one part of retirement that is a real adjustment is not only am I home all the time, but for my wife, I'm home all the time. Where I was normally gone for five, six months of the year and you get used to it, and you don't have to like it, it's just something that you get used to, and you just expect it. Totally different when you're not doing that, that type of thing. Interviewer: Would you do it again? If we could go back to ‘64 when I originally joined the service and go through that whole scenario all over again, without hesitation I would do it again. Would I join today to do another thirty-seven years in it, if I were that young again, no, I would not...at all.

Mr. Johnston looks back on his service, reflecting on how daily life as a retiree is so different from his time in the service, and how much he was away from home.

Alonzo Johnston

Mr. Johnston first served with the HSR cadets in Sussex, NB, and joined the regular forces before finishing high school. He joined the air force, but transferred to the navy after his trade as a data processor was closed and contracted out to civilians. In 1981, Mr. Johnston returned to the air force as an air weapons controller, commissioned from navy ranks. After a promotion, Mr. Johnston was posted in Bangor, then Oklahoma with a joint Canadian/American AWACS force. This force was eventually posted in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, where Mr. Johnston served as a mission control commander on Northern Watch and Provide Comfort missions. In 1996, Mr. Johnston was reassigned to North Bay, Ontario, where he remained until his retirement in 2002.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Alonzo Johnston
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Air Force

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: