Countess of Wessex visits in September

April 02, 2012

Dear Diary,

As they say, (whoever ‘they’ are) time flies, and so do I. Planning continues for the visit of HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, scheduled for September 15 & 16 this year. The Garrison Community Council – Niagara has been requested by the 2012 Commenorative Committee of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, to assist in the visit. Specifically the GCC-N has been requested to co-ordinate the VIP reception, which follows the parade; and to provide yours truly as the Master of Ceremonies for the presentation of Colours Ceremony to be held at Queenston Heights.

We are honoured to have asked and look forward to providing any assistance we can. 

Planning also continues to the visit of Senator Pamela Wallin to the Niagara Penninsula, Oct 25/26. All details have yet to be worked out but the itinerary should keep the Senator occupied during her visit.

Friday will start with an informal breakfast with veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Legion, followed by a presentation to journalism students at Niagara College and then on to lunch. A subcommittee of the GCC-N has been formed under the auspices of Mrs. Lynette Yorke, and Regional Councillor Mrs. Barb Greenwood, to coordinate details of the fundraiser Luncheon planned for the Friday.

Volunteers have also requested the opportunity to open the Lincoln and Welland Regimental Museum at the Historic Butlers barracks to give the Senator a tour and display ‘The Vimy Gun’.

The GCC momentum continues to build. As I commence a short trip to Alberta and Saskatchewan, I feel at truly home in Big Sky Country.

Catching up with a friend over coffee in Calgary, it was as if the past 12 years simply melted away. Seeing my oldest two children certainly added to the pleasure of the trip; but my focus was slightly east of the foothills and Calgary to the rolling plains of wild horses, soldiers, ranchers and oil and gas production. Sunset still goes on forever.

Saturday, March 31, my visit to Medicine opens with a tour of the Regimental Museum of the South Alberta Light Horse. Situated in one of the original building from the WWII German POW camp, one of the largest is the Commonwealth, the museum had its official opening a year ago and demonstrates the results of years of dedication and hard work of private individuals who proudly display the local connections to Canada’s Armed Forces, past and present. It never ceases to amaze me what can be achieved by a small group of people who care.

The new Commanding Officer, Major Colin of the SALH conducted the tour with the new Honourary Lieutenant Colonel, J. Angus Watt. Angus is a Managing Director, Individual Investor Services, Angus Watt Advisory Group, National Bank Financial, located in Edmonton.

This visit is held in conjunction with the Vimy Dinner, held annually to celebrate and honour the sacrifices of the Regiment during the famous WWI Battle or Vimy Ridge. A superb evening at the historic ‘Cypress Club’ of Medicine Hat, with old and new friends, ‘swapping war stories and other lies’. Of interest, the ‘Cypress Club’ was originally constructed and operated long before the advent of hotels and motels; mainly for the benefit of Ranchers and Business people visiting ‘The Hat’ during Rodeos, livestock auctions and farming events.

There is a renewed interest in initiating a GCC in Medicine Hat and Edmonton. The Mayor of Medicine Hat, Norm Boucher, has requested that I visit before returning east to brief on the concept. Being a retired member of the RCMP, Mayor Boucher is only too well aware of the importance of having community support and involvement with the military. He is committed to building stronger relations with nearby Canadian Forces Base Suffield, and the SALH. I will meet with him in his office on Thursday of this week, with Paul Mast, President of the SALH Association and the United Services Institute. After meeting with Mayor Boucher, I am off to visit with Col Doug Claggett, Commander of CFB Suffield, to bring him up to speed on the concept.

Major Michaud and Mr. Watt, both of whom reside in Edmonton, have also requested a briefing on the GCC. The days are fading quickly when individual wealthy Canadians could carry the expense of supporting non-government funded activities of units of our military. If Canadians see a need for the perpetuation of historic activities through stronger connections with the military community, the GCC can provide them a means of becoming involved and celebrating their proud local and national heritage. I have promised to visit Edmonton as soon as possible to provide the information Mr. Watt and Maj Michaud need to encourage a GCC in Edmonton.

If this is Monday, Arpil 02, then I must be in Saskatoon. I am doing my recognisance, (finding my way around) in preparation for my meeting tomorrow afternoon with Col Dan Whittaker, Commanding Officer of the Saskatchewan Infantry Tactical Training Group. Dan is in the process of completing a very busy annual performance review of his direct reports and planning a live fire training exercise for local Reserve units. I expect to come away from this meeting with a confirmed point of contact within Saskatoon through which a GCC will be introduced and formed. Saskatoon is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities and within the top 35 communities in which to live in Canada. Youthful and vibrant it boasts an unemployment rate hovering at about 5%.

I will close this entry with an update on Thurs after I fade into the amazing western sunset.

A Busy Week at GCC Niagara

Dear Diary,

It seems to have been a very busy week for the GCC-Niagara Steering Committee and it isn’t finished yet.

Last Thurs evening, I and Lou Frenette from Branch 479, attended the Royal Canadian Legion Zone B-5 meeting at Branch 51 in Niagara Falls. I was accorded the opportunity to discuss a community/youth outreach initiative that we started percolating last year.  As you remember, (or not), the Ontario Minister of Education approved our request that the terms of the Community Service Requirement for Secondary School Graduation be extended to include:

  • Senior Citizens who wish to remain in their own home and otherwise would have difficulty with household chores and yard work;
  • Widows and widowers of Military Veterans, regardless of age;
  • and, Military Families separated as a result of military commitments.  

My thrust to the Zone B-5 Commanders was that this initiative presents a wonderful opportunity for the Legion Branches to become more engaged with their local communities.

My recommendation was that they consider acting as local program coordinators by developing lists of individuals and seniors within their local area who would benefit from some volunteer assistance; and co-ordinating with local school principals or guidance councillors to produce a list of willing secondary school students needing community service hours or just willing to participate.  The individual Legion Branches would then arrange volunteers to assist specific residents and then sign off on the school record of community service for those students.  This is a win, win, win, win, opportunity for everyone. The Residents win, the student wins and the Legion and the GCC meet their obligation to provide service to the community and their membership.  Although I only ask that they consider the motion, they wholeheartedly endorsed the initiative and sent me packing with the task of preparing guidelines and forms appropriate for their use. WOW!!!

In addition, Legions in Port Colbourne, Ridgeway, St. Catharines, and Welland have offered to host the GCC-N Steering Committee meetings on a rotational basis.

This was followed immediately with a visit to the Lincoln & Welland Regimental Museum, located in the historic ‘Butlers Barracks’ in Niagara on the Lake, where a couple of our executive and volunteers assisted museum volunteers in clean up and preparation for the museum opening this spring. It is such an honour to participate with these men and women in paying tribute to the history of our Region and our Country.

Now to other community service the GCC-Niagara has been requested to assist the organizers of a Canadian Cancer Society race titled “The Grapes of Wrath”.  This event will occur on Saturday July 07, 2012, and hosted by the 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines.  What could possibly be the connection to the GCC?  The organizers have turned to us to layout 13 obstacles to challenge the hundreds of competitors expected for the event.  Last Saturday was a day to walk the terrain and create a plan which will provide a memorable experience for all – more to follow.

On Monday afternoon, March 19, our GCC hosted a ‘Community Partners Meeting’, a networking group for agencies that provide or coordinate service to our military families and veterans. Hosted at Branch 479, RCL, in Niagara Falls, the session was a carry on from the very successful symposium held last spring.  Attendees included representatives from the Region of Niagara, the City of Niagara Falls, OSISS, Veterans Affairs, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, the local Reserve Force Units and Niagara Falls, Ridgeway and St. Catharines Legions.  This proved to be an excellent opportunity to open more lines of communication and re-enforce the wonderful work that the Family Support Group of the GCC and the Legion Service Officers have been doing.  It was encouraging to note that funding for the Military Family Resource Centre in London, Ontario has been extended for another year. Their support of our efforts in Niagara has been greatly appreciated.

Our own local Niagara Family Support efforts will be aided by funds raised this spring and fall at GCC sponsored events – more to follow as details are finalized.

Wednesday evening the GCC-Niagara Steering Committee held its monthly meeting and hammered out details of the visit of Senator Pamela Wallin, this fall, specifically October 25/26. Senator Wallin has agreed to by the keynote speaker at a luncheon fundraiser on behalf of the GCC.

The committee has agreed to assist and support the 10th Field Battery, 56 Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery, this April in their commemoration of the St. Julian’s Day; and assisting the Lincoln & Welland Regiment in September, with their celebration of the presentation of new Regimental Colours at Queenston Heights. This latter event will be officiated at the Princess Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.

The GCC-N has accepted a position on the L & W 1812 Bi-Centennial Committee to assist in raising public awareness for events across our region.