Canadians and the world watched as the Gulf War was on every TV channel, beaming live into our living rooms 24/7.
My personal story
I write about this war as a reminder to myself—that it was not just as seen on TV. I write it as a reminder of the extremely personal time I shared with my best friend and her children as her husband deployed to the Persian Gulf aboard HMCS Protecteur. The weeks leading up to the deployment were full of preparations, anxiousness, disbelief, confusion, but also pride. This was a new type of war and it held unknown dangers. We talked a lot before he left and silently wondered: would he return to this harbour? He did, however within a short period of time it was evident that he was no longer the same man.
What our military contributed
The Gulf War was the first time Canadian military personnel went to war since 1950. Troops deployed to the Gulf would serve in one of four units: The Canadian Task Group at Sea, Canadian Air Task Group in Qatar, Joint Headquarters, and the First Canadian Field Hospital. In late August 1990, three ships of the Canadian Navy were dispatched: two destroyers—HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan—and HMCS Protecteur, a supply replenishment ship. While Terra Nova and Athabaskan were both warships, tasked with providing an escort for an American hospital ship, Protecteur’s task was the re-supplying and re-fueling of Canadian vessels, as well as those of the coalition navies. The Canadian contingent also included a number of modified Sea King helicopters, which were invaluable in locating and inspecting shipping in the Persian Gulf. Throughout the conflict, nearly thirty percent of all United Nations shipping inspections were conducted by the Canadian Forces.
They all came home
By the time the last shot was fired, over 3,600 Canadian military personnel had served in the war with no casualties. However, “no casualties” is not to say “no sacrifice.” In the course of their service, many were exposed to depleted uranium, the use of bromide, oil well fires, airborne infectious diseases, stress, and other environmental, biological and chemical hazards. Many Veterans kept silent, carried their burdens, and tried their best to get through each day. Looking back to the time following the return of our gulf war veterans, there was more confusion, and asking a proud military man to get help was akin to asking him to admit defeat. This included my best friend’s family. Her husband’s scars were too deep, and they left a divided and broken family.
Wondering why, and how you can make a difference
I am left wondering why we have not heard or seen any direct recognition of the men and women of the Canadian Military that left Canada 25 years ago to serve in this conflict. As a legion member, I join my veteran friends—most in their 40’s and 50’s—in honouring all service personnel during Veteran’s Week and Remembrance Day. There is far more to be done every day to help those that demonstrated a willingness to defend others at great personal risk.
My personal story is why I am a member, and regularly volunteer and patronize my legion. Change starts one person at a time and together we can make a difference. Please support Veterans and Royal Canadian Legion.
Royal Canadian Legion #134 Malahat District
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