ALBERTON -- Master Corporal Debbie Bowness acknowledges her peacekeeping duties in Cyprus and Kosovo in no way compare to what Canada’s war veterans endured.
Speaking to students and staff during the Holland College West Prince Campus Remembrance Day program, Bowness said two voluntary activities she participated in while in Cyprus in 1986 gave her pause to think about the veterans.
The first was 25-kilometer marches with the Danish contingent, on consecutive days, through snow and rain and mud.
After the first day her feet were blistered and she wondered if she’d be able to complete the second march. The second day was colder.
“As I was slugging through the mud, I wondered what it was like in wartime,” she said, aware what veterans went through was so much harsher.
“That was my first thought, what it must have been like in wartime, because war was hell on earth.”
Later in her Cyprus, tour she had an opportunity to go on a parachute jump with the British servicemen.
The jump was like slow motion at first, but she landed hard on a runway and the chute dragged her along the runway.
“That, too, led me to wonder, ‘What about our paratroopers? What did they go through?’
“Some, I’m sure, never made it. Some landed in trees, from what I’ve read, and some were caught and taken as prisoners of war.
“Those two things brought a part of the past to me that I never otherwise would have experienced,” she reflected.
She described the underground tunnels at Vimy as “something to see, to imagine these soldiers digging, living and working underground. That was an experience.”
Bowness joined the Canadian Forces in February, 1976 after seeing a sign reading: “Join the service; see the world.” She retired in September 2007.
West Prince campus manager Paula Foley shared the war story of her parents-in-law Frank Weeks and Margaret Nixon Weeks.
Frank was born in 1917 and enlisted in July, 1941. He took radio wireless and air gunner training before shipping out a year later.
He completed 31 night-bombing missions over enemy territory, participated in reconnaissance missions and laid mines. He later trained servicemen in wireless radio.
Margaret Gladys Nixon was born November, 1921. She joined the British Women’s Land Army in October, 1942 and was posted in Lakenheath in August, 1943 when she met Frank. They married the following July. A month later Frank was offered furlough and an educational release. He returned home and enrolled in Toronto’s Radio College. His bride arrived at Halifax’s Pier 21 aboard the Aquitania. Frank was waiting at the train station when she arrived in Toronto. They moved home and in with his Frank’s parents in November, 1945.
The College ceremony included a color party from the 641 West Prince Air Cadet Squadron and a thoughtful recitation of Flanders Fields by welding student Ryan Ward.