For the fifth year in a row, freelance writer and photographer Sonja Drinkwater is telling the stories of veterans from the Alberni Valley.
This year she talked to two veterans who shared a photo from when they served with their respective military branch, as well as some of their experiences while serving with Canada’s military. She then took a photo of the veterans as they are now. If you know of a Port Alberni veteran who deserves to be featured in a future edition of Then & Now, please contact us via email at email@example.com or call 250-723-6399.
By SONJA DRINKWATER
Special to the AV News
George Poole entered the Canadian military at age 17. Now a veteran and member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 in Port Alberni, Poole remembers well the day he signed up for service.
It was 1963 and Poole was living in Halifax when he joined the Canadian Guard as a first class rifleman in the army.
Poole was then sent to Cyprus as a peacekeeper from 1964–65.
It was a traumatic time for him, so much so that he won’t speak of his time overseas.
The peacekeeping operation in Cyprus, which started in 1964, is one of Canada’s longest overseas military commitments, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.
The country is still sending peacekeepers to the island, located in the Mediterranean north of Egypt and south of Turkey, under the auspices of the United Nations.
The UN became involved on March 4, 1964 when a peacekeeping force was sent to Cyprus in an attempt to stop civil unrest between Turkey and Greek Cypriots.
More than 25,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served in Cyprus, most of them between 1964-1993. A small contingent remains in the Mediterranean.
“I quit after Cyprus,” Poole said. He married Marie Jacquard on Aug. 13, 1966 and then went on to work in mills.
He returned to Nova Scotia and went to work in Yarmouth at a cotton mill making ships sails.
In 1981 he and Marie moved to Chilliwack, B.C. “because we wanted milder winters.”
In 2011 they moved to Port Alberni and Poole joined the Royal Canadian Legion.
“I held a few positions there including as entertainment chair,” he said.
Earlier this year members of the Legion arranged to have a stairlift installed on the front steps of Poole’s home, to help him get in and out of his house as his health has deteriorated.
“The Legion has been a blessing, if not for them I would have continued to be stranded in my own home,” said Poole.
— With files from Susie Quinn, Alberni Valley News editor