OTTAWA – For this week’s column I would like to thank our men and women in uniform and their families lest we forget their sacrifices.
I feel that I have always understood and appreciated the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made on our behalf, but since becoming a Member of Parliament I think that understanding has become much clearer, and my appreciation much greater.
One of the people I’ve gotten to know well over the last three years in our riding is Dorothy Chambers. Her name, and indeed her face, is almost instantly recognizable to many people in Thunder Bay. For those who have not met Dorothy, she is a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and is a very active senior in our community. Indeed, I chose to honour her this year by making her personal service story the subject of our Remembrance Day mailing. If it turns up in your mailbox this week please give it a read as it will tell you all about Dorothy and her memories in service of our country. You can also read her story on the Internet at: The Memory Project.
Soon after my first election I an event that helped me understand a bit more about the difficulties faced by military families. In February 2009 I was invited to attend the opening of the Thunder Bay Military Family Resource Centre. This centre was created to help families cope with life while one or members are on active duty. Access to government information on various programs can be found there, but so can information on counselling, support groups, and a secure teleconference centre so that loved ones can stay in touch better. The immensity of the sacrifices made by military families doesn’t really hit you until you meet some of those families and see how much of a positive impact this centre has had on their lives. You can read more about the Thunder Bay Military Family Resource Centre.
This past August I was able to spend some time aboard the HMCS Ville De Quebec, a Halifax based frigate in the Royal Canadian Navy, so that I could learn more about the life of our active service personnel. I was even able to spend some time with Brandon Oram, a Thunder Bay resident native who was on duty aboard the ship. I can tell you that it is a tough life at sea, with heavy training and missions abroad making the time away from home even more difficult. Despite the tough schedule and remote locations though, I learned quickly from the sailors that family is never far from their mind. It was a memorable experience to be sure. You can learn more about the HMCS Ville De Quebec.
As I meet more people and gain more experience in my job I am also learning a great deal more about the sacrifices made by our active and retired military personnel and their families. I am enormously grateful to all of you for your sacrifices – yesterday, today and tomorrow – and I know that our neighbours throughout the riding and Canada are equally proud and thankful. On their behalf I thank you so much.
John Rafferty MP