Simple actions. Astonishing results.

Leslie M. Miller, lieutenant in the Canadian Corps.

The padre stepped up to the lectern this past Sunday morning in Shedden, Ont. The audience at the community centre for the Remembrance service settled into silence. The clergyman unfolded his papers, that I thought would contain a prayer, a piece of scripture or perhaps the words of a hymn. But, no, he looked out at the assembly of cadets, veterans and the public in the audience and introduced his Nov. 11 thoughts this way.

“From simple actions, come astonishing results,” he said.

There is nothing like a Dame

RCAF vet Charley Fox leaning on one of his beloved Spitfires; but a day in 2006 nearly topped that.

A student pilot nearly killed him in a training accident in November 1942. While still an instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, during the Second World War here in Canada, he’d survived a head-on collision with another aircraft near Bagotville, Quebec. And overseas during combat operations flying Spitfires, RCAF airman Charley Fox also survived 234 combat sorties as a fighter pilot. And yet, it was a June evening in 2006, that Charley told me just about topped them all.

“Meeting Dame Vera Lynn,” Fox said, “was a highlight in my life.”

Visual aids or impediments

Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton's former Blatchford airfield.
Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton’s former Blatchford airfield.

It was just a few minutes to go. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the author with whom I was sharing MC-ing duties (last Friday night), and I, were trying to organize visuals for our combined presentation about historic aviation moments. We were about to co-host the launch of the LitFest 2014: Edmonton’s annual non-fiction festival. The audience was all seated in the venue now, the Alberta Aviation Museum. She tried to get all our images to register on her computer. I tried to get them to register on mine. But we couldn’t get one laptop to talk to the other.

“It’s just a Mac-PC thing, I guess,” she said.

Kids in the line of duty

Korean War Veterans’ Appreciation Day took place in Oshawa on Saturday, May 25, 2013.

The ceremony was about to begin. Most of the dignitaries had assembled. The sound system was live. The pipe and drum bands were tuned and ready to go. But the MC of the proceedings held off until just before 11 o’clock.

“We’re awaiting some guests of honour,” Colonel Bob Chapman, the MC, said. “They’ll be here momentarily.”

Then a transit-sized bus pulled up to the curb on Simcoe Street in Oshawa. The bus was resplendent in poppy insignia and Remembrance Day slogans and when its doors opened, out came about a dozen veterans, most under their own power, but clearly needing some assistance. That’s when this heart-warming thing happened.

How we inspire others

Hap Harris on his Wings (Graduation) Day in August 1943. Photo courtesy Harris family.

Following a recent oldtimers’ hockey game at the arena Sunday night, my teammates and I made our way to the dressing room. The difference this night, however, was that we had won our game. For the first time in our Uxbridge Adult Hockey round-robin playoff, we had won – our first victory in four tries. We were all feeling pretty upbeat as we piled into the dressing room, where a teammate next to me suggested why we had won.

“We can thank Flying Officer Harris for this one,” he said.

Pre-Christmas dedication

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King pins wings on the uniform of an early graduate of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during a symbolic ceremony on Parliament Hill. King made sure the plan became an entirely made-in-Canada phenomenon.
Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King pins wings on the uniform of an early graduate of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during a symbolic ceremony on Parliament Hill. King made sure the plan became an entirely made-in-Canada phenomenon.

December 17 is an anniversary. It’s not the kind of anniversary Canadians notice much anymore. Indeed, the number of those who acknowledge it, dwindles each year. And yet, it’s the day back in 1939 that some historians suggest marked this country’s true declaration of independence. Then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King signed an international agreement that day.

“I suppose no more significant agreement has ever been signed by the Government of Canada,” King wrote in his diary that evening. It also happened to be his 65th birthday, so it was doubly auspicious, he thought.