SUMMERSIDE — Scott Harvey believes in the military.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Three Oaks Senior High automotive instructor Scott Harvey had a career in the military before his teaching career.
Harvey, an automotive teacher at Three Oaks Senior High, was acorporal in the Canadian Armed Forces, having served as a vehicle technician from 1982 to 1993.
The Carleton Siding native and Summerside resident joined the military at age 18.
He headed to basic training in Cornwallis, N.S, and studied to become a vehicle technician, followed by postings at CFB Gagetown, CFB Chatham, N.B., and, after taking a yearlong French course, with 12 RBC at CFB Valcartier.
But it wasn’t until near the end of his military career that he went on a peacekeeping tour of duty to Bosnia, something that would forever change his life.
“I had trained for 10 years and I had been passed over on a couple of other tours. This one came up and it was my unit going and I volunteered to go.”
But, with such little time left before exiting the Forces and a young daughter at home, Harvey was discouraged from heading to Bosnia.
“I had to go see the padre to go and I went to him and said, ‘ok, you’ve got to send me’. I left on my birthday, Nov. 12, and I came back May 14,” he recalled.
“I remember the day I had to say, mom, I’ve decided I am going to go on tour in Yugoslavia. That wasn’t a very nice thing to say to your mom.”
It was a difficult, often heart wrenching experience, one that Harvey will never forget and doesn’t regret.
“The experience really opened my eyes to a lot of what you see on television compared to what was the reality. It is funny, when I first got there all gung-ho, I was younger then,” said Harvey. “We had it all figured out and we were well trained. I never felt better trained my whole life until I got there and went, wow, this is the real deal.”
His unit was in Croatia for two and a half months, doing humanitarian convoys daily or weekly, depending on what was needed, before moving into Sarajevo.
“When we rolled into Sarajevo it was upside down. It was burning. We had a shelter on the other side of Sniper Alley, as they called it,” said Harvey. “We would stay there and do our convoys. When Sniper Alley was too active and we were getting shot at too much, they would get us to walk through the mountains. There were also things that were dangerous up there because of the slides and the mud and the vehicles.”
He admitted thoughts of one’s mortality flood to the surface when in such a situation, but training kicks in and takes over when in combat.
“The fear and the training probably makes you fee the most secure. I was ready.”
Harvey recalled the first time he had been shot at in Sniper Alley. After a debriefing, he went back to his tent, along with his fellow soldiers.
“I remember I looked at my toes and they started shaking. Everyone else was talking. It kind of got numb then the shake when through my whole body. It was my body telling me that I was in shock. After that, it got better but it was that initial shock,” said Harvey. “You are very well trained and you react. I remember reacting without even thinking. I knew when the radio came in ‘contact, contact, contact’ that first time, it was automatic. It was hatches down, do what you got to do, like you do in training.
“When you are in training you think, what do I do if I forget this little part or this part, but you remember it just like that — boom, boom, boom.”
He said friends and comrades fall in combat and others are wounded, forever scarred by their experience.
“A lot of it happens from accidents,” said Harvey, who, luckily, wasn’t injured.
He recalled the devastation of the cities and the resiliency of the people.
One memory that will forever stay with him is that of children walking over minefields to get to school.
“We were told that everything that was not asphalt is mined, so you don’t get out of your vehicle and go for a pee on the side of the road because that could be mined. You would wait for an engineer to come clear with a metal detector or something,” said Harvey. “When we first got there, we were heading towards Dariva, which is a town that the war had already gone by. The houses were all burned down and everything was done and I remember seeing these little kids. We were driving great big vehicles and they would be walking alongside the road on areas that were not de-mined with a loaf of bread under their arms.
“I could hear all the bombs and the small arms fire going on in the distance and they are going along toward Dariva.”
An interpreter travelling with his unit told Harvey the children were walking to bombed-out homes and buildings where, in the basements that remained, the women left behind would teach them, giving them some sense of normalcy in the midst of such tragedy.
Their reward for getting to and from school safely was that loaf of bread.
“That is embedded in my mind.”
Harvey retired in 1993 and, in 2002, was awarded the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal for his contribution to his peacekeeping efforts.
His daughter, Crystal, grown with a child of her own, is now in the military.
“She was home this summer and I have a grandson, three. We were talking about how she could go to Afghanistan or anywhere and we had some pretty serious chats,” said Harvey, who never discouraged her from signing up. “I’ve had the discussions with her and we signed on the dotted line — that we’re going to serve and protect our country and do the right thing for the right reasons. She believes that as well.”
Harvey is proud to be a military man and to speak about his experiences. His story detailed by student Scott Richard during a recent Veterans Appreciation Night at Credit Union Place’s Veterans Convention Centre.
Each year, around Remembrance Day, he goes into classrooms to speak.
“I believe in the military more than just to protect your country and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Also, there’s structure in there for young people that need it. I needed structure when I was young. I can think of a few that need it and I teach at a high school,” said Harvey. “I just think it is the right thing. I believe in the military and I always have.”