City veterans honoured

Eleven residents recognized for military service during Charlottetown ceremony

Published on November 9, 2012
Shirley Hennessey, a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, shown with Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee was one of 11 city veterans honoured at a ceremony recently.
Submitted photo

The 2012 Veterans Recognition Awards recipients are:
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Egan
Captain Michael Conway
Honorary Colonel Roy Boswell
Corporal Arnold Pothier
Master Corporal Mary Jean Murphy
John Trent Costello
Lieutenant Colonel Allan Trainor
Sergeant Brian Duncan
Alan Ubsdell
Captain Brian DeCoste
Shirley Hennessey, a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps

The City of Charlottetown honoured 11 local residents for their military service during the 2012 Veterans Recognition Awards at a recent ceremony.

“There are many men and women who have made tremendous sacrifices so that we can live in peace in this great country,” said Mayor Clifford Lee. “These awards are held annually to recognize our local veterans. This is the eighth year for the Veterans Recognition Awards and I hope past, current and future award recipients know how much we appreciate them.”

CLICK HERE FOR BRIEF BIOS ON THE RECIPIENTS

The following are brief biographies on the recipients:

CWO Mike Egan

Chief Warrant Officer Michael (Mike) Dwayne Egan served several years with the Army Cadets and then enrolled in the Canadian Army Reserves on June 23, 1986.

He has served in the Reserves for the past 26 years.

In 1989, he was promoted to Master Corporal. He climbed up the ranks again in 1998 to Warrant Officer and, subsequently, Master Warrant Officer in 2004.

In 2009, Egan earned the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and, at the same time, also became Regimental Sergeant Major of the Prince Edward Island Regiment.

As RSM of the unit, Egan works closely with the Commanding Officer and has gone ‘the extra mile’ to provide leadership that has often gone unnoticed. And, those he serves with say he is a relentless perfectionist. Egan takes great pride in the contribution of the P.E.I. Regiment to the Regular Forces of the Canadian Forces.

In addition to providing military exposure to new recruits, members of the unit have served overseas in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and one former member of the regiment is about to embark on flight training to become a C5 Galaxy Pilot.

A recent evaluation of Egan’s work as RSM of the regiment included these words: “He consistently provides counsel, advice and encouragement to the entire leadership team and soldiers of this regiment. He has the pulse of the unit, monitors all soldiers’ welfare and always keeps the Commanding Officer full informed on any and all issues.’’

Supremely dedicated, he is at the unit every day to keep ahead of the game and to anticipate any issues that might arise.

Considering CWO Egan has a young family, this demonstrates exceptional dedication and sacrifice to our regiment and the Canadian army.

Egan is married to Penny and they have three children.

CWO Egan, RSM of PEIR, is an outstanding example of the personal sacrifice and success that epitomizes the best of Reservists in the Canadian Forces.

Michael H. Conway

Generations of Canadians have served their country and the world during times of war, military conflict and peace.

Through their courage and sacrifice these men and women have helped to ensure that we live in freedom and peace while also fostering freedom and peace around the world.

Canada’s involvement in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and Canada’s efforts during military operations and peace efforts has always been fuelled by a commitment to protect the rights of others and to foster peace and freedom.

Many Canadians have died for those beliefs and many others have dedicated their lives to these pursuits.

This willingness to stand up to protect human rights, freedom and justice remains one of Canada’s defining characteristics in the eyes of the world.

One such gentleman who represents the epitome of this Canadian tradition is Michael (Mike) Conway.

He joined the Canadian army in Charlottetown in 1966 and served with five Signals Regiment. In 1969, he transferred to the Second Combat Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron in Petawawa, Ont., and served there for the next five years.

During those five years Conway served an attached posting with the United Nations Forces in Cyprus.

In July 1974, he returned to the Maritimes and served at the Canadian Forces Station in Millcove, N.S.

As with all professional soldiers, Conway was only in Nova Scotia for three years when he was posted to Number 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade in Lahr, Germany.

In August 1979, he was off again to Baden, Germany, where he served for three years with the 3rd Battalion.

From there he returned to Kingston, Ont., with the First Canadian Signal Regiment for two years and then back to Summerside for another two years with 720 Communications Detachment.

From 1984 to 1988, Conway went back to Nova Scotia where he served with 720 Communications Squadron at Debert, near Truro.

During that posting, he served another attached posting in Israel/Syria with the United Nations Disengagement Forces.

In 1988/89, Conway was back in Canada at the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown, N.B.

In 1991, following French language training at CFB Shearwater, he was posted to the 12th Armoured Regiment, stationed at Valcartier, Que.

Conway returned to Charlottetown in 1991 and finished the last six years with 721 Communications Regiment and retired with the rank of captain.

In 1997, and up to the present, he has been employed with Charlottetown Police Services in their telecommunications section.

Conway has three children — Kelly Lynn, Mike, who is presently serving in the Canadian Army, and step-daughter Kelli.

He proudly wears five medals — the United Nations Forces in Cyprus Medal, the United Nations Disengagement Observe Force Medal, the Canada 125 Medal and his Canadian Forces Decoration with Clasp.

Honorary Colonel Roy Boswall

The role of the Canadian Forces today invokes all aspects of peace support, including peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

The skills and training needed for peace support includes combat skills as well as contact skills. These are afforded to our troops through the Canadian Forces Reserve and their regiments across Canada.

Boswall enlisted in Charlottetown on May 20, 1952 and served continuously in the Reserves until retiring in September 1975.

Boswall began his service as a signalman. Within two years, he was promoted to Lance Corporal and Corporal.

In January 1954, he was accepted into the Canadian Officers Training Corp (COTC) and took his training in Kingston, Ont. In 1955, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant.

Three years later he was promoted to Lieutenant and served a number of appointments in 5 Signal Regiment until he was promoted to Captain in 1960.

In 1965, he was advanced to the rank of Major and to Deputy Commanding Officer in 1968.

In 1971, Boswall became Commanding Officer of 721 Signals Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and served as Commanding Officer until 1975.

From 1988 to 1992, he was the regiment’s honorary Lieutenant-Colonel and between 1995 and 2002 he served as honorary Colonel.

During those long years of service to the Canadian Forces, Boswall says there were many moments of satisfaction and pride.

One of those he recalls was parading the unit before Queen Elizabeth during a P.E.I. visit. Another was serving as Commanding Officer when the unit won the prestigious Beamont and Malloch trophies, awarded to the most proficient Signal unit in Canada.

However, while Boswall enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow Reservists and the light-hearted moments which occurred, he remembers one such occasion when he gave orders for a subordinate to direct parade square drill.

The bewildered non-commissioned officer marched the whole unit into the latrine.

Today, Boswall and his wife Elizabeth have been married for more than 56 years.

In 1992, he retired from the Research Station of Canada, Department of Agriculture. He is past vice-president of the Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Association and a former member of the Communications and Electronics Institution.

His outstanding dedication and service is a testament to the commitment and perseverance of those who have given so much of themselves to maintaining the fine standards of the Canadian Forces Reserve.

Arnold (Arnie) Louis Pothier

Over the years, many thousands of soldiers, sailors airmen and women served their countries in war and peacekeeping.

International missions often have positive effects but the strife, conflict and death that can surround these efforts is not always easy to handle.

Being separated from friends and family for months at a time, the possibility of witnessing extreme violence and cruelty, of having to use force or have force used against you, and the realization that you could be killed or wounded while carrying out your duties are some of the experiences that many veterans know well.

Pothier was a mechanic, trained in Fort McClelland, Alabama, and Fort Benning, Georgia, and served in the Unites States and Vietnam.

He was born in Everett, Mass., and was drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1966. After basic training he received instructions as a mechanic on heavy equipment and transportation vehicles and sent to Vietnam.

Pothier arrived at the U.S. Army’s Transit Depot in Cam Ranh Bay in February 1968. From there he was posted to the 864th Engineering Battalion, U.S. Corps of Engineers, stationed at their base in Nha Trang.

With the rank of Corporal, Pothier was assigned to Charlie Company and was responsible for servicing bulldozers, earth movers, half-tons, three-quarter tons and other mechanical vehicles.

During his tour in Vietnam, Pothier’s duties constantly forced him out of the relative safety of the army base and into the jungles of Southeast Asia. He and his comrades were flown into the Central Highlands of Vietnam to build and repair roads and bridges.

They were dropped throughout Vietnam and Cambodia whenever an army convoy had broken down.

With only the tools and supplies they could carry, they dismantled one or two vehicles for parts, repaired the remaining three or four vehicles, and then towed the disabled vehicles south.

In such operations, time was of the essence and nerves were stretched to the breaking point as it was imperative that the convoys got moving before they were discovered by the Viet Cong.

In several situations, Pothier found himself leaping into foxholes to escape enemy fire from rockets and snipers. On numerous occasions he came close to being hit, but fortunately never was.

Pothier’s tour in Vietnam lasted eight months before he returned to the United States. He vividly remembers how shocked he was at the terrible manner in which soldiers were treated when they came home.

Today, Pothier is grateful for his military experience which allowed him, like so many others, to learn a trade. He says his military experience forced him to grow up extremely quickly and changed his outlook on life.

It reinforced his core values of faith and family, and also taught him to appreciate what he had been given.

Pothier has worked as a pressman in the printing industry on Prince Edward Island for more than 40 years.

He is married to Peggy and together they have two children and four grandchildren.

 

Master Corporal Mary Jean Murphy

Peacekeeping is based on the idea that having a force of impartial troops present in a regional conflict can help reduce tensions and improve the chance of peaceful settlement to a violent conflict.

But filling this role is demanding work.

Put yourself in the shoes of a young person leaving on an international peace mission.

You could be called upon to monitor cease-fires, patrol buffer zones, act as an intermediary between clashing groups, clear landmines, investigate war crimes, protect refugees and provide humanitarian assistance.

Each situation encountered by the Canadian Forces, when they enter into a new peace mission, is unique.

Canadian Forces members returning from peace missions often remark that “There was very little peace to keep” a reference to the fact that the military is often asked to intervene in situations of full-fledged war where the environment is not at all peaceful.

Murphy joined the Canadian Forces in 1990 as a private. She served with many units, 721 Communications Regiment, 723 Communications Squadron, 26 Field Regiment, and for what she hopes is her final home the Prince Edward Island Regiment.

Her Commanding Officer has stated that Murphy has served the P.E.I. Regiment with distinction. He says every soldier within the unit relies on her experience to ensure all the administrative aspects are handled.

Not one to sit idle, Murphy has completed three operational tours. She was deployed to Bosnia in 2000, Task Force Golan, Syria, in 2003 and her final tour was with Task Force Afghanistan, Kandahar, in 2007.

Murphy’s colleagues agree that she is an example of the sacrifice and dedication of reservists who have stepped forward and augmented the Regular Force.

Without this augmentation, it would have been very difficult for Canada to maintain it overseas and domestic commitments.

Murphy is the new face to the term veteran.

 

John Trent Costello

Canadian Forces veterans have made many personal and global achievements and have made personal sacrifices to defend Canada’s interests and its values, while contributing to international peace and security.

These men and women take their honoured place in our country’s military history books beside their fellow veterans and fallen comrades of Canada’s earlier war efforts.

Their commitment has earned Canada a worldwide reputation as a country that supports and protects peace.

As the years have passed, the focus of commemorative events, such as what we are experiencing here this evening, has expanded.

When once they centered on the achievements and sacrifices of the veterans of the world wars, Vietnam and Korea, they now include the veterans of peacetime Canadian Forces activities.

Because of the initiative of Mayor Clifford Lee and city council and the idea to recognize the service of people, who are our neighbours and friends, the city encourages all of Charlottetown to learn about the sacrifices and achievements made by Charlottetown veterans during times of war, military conflict, peacekeeping and peacemaking and to become involved in remembrance activities that will help to preserve their legacy for future generations.

Costello was nominated by his fellow veterans at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch Number 1 in Charlottetown.

Costello and his service saw him in both the Army Reserve and in the Regular Force.

Costello was born in Charlottetown and boasts he is a ‘downeaster’, meaning he was born and raised in the east end on Fitzroy Street.

He served in the reserves from 1969 to 1973 and then went on to the Regular Force Canadian Army from 1973 to 1992.

He completed many postings and terms throughout the Maritimes and Ontario and during those years he had various short assignments to Canadian bases overseas in Europe.

During this time he served in the Signal Corps and as a Mobile Support Equipment Operator.

His colleagues state that since his retirement from the Canadian Forces he has always had the benefits of the veteran at heart.

This, they say, is evident and well demonstrated by the fact that during veterans’ functions he always ensures those who are house-bound or handicapped have transport to and from those functions with Pat and the Elephant.

Lieutenant Colonel Allan Trainor

Lieutenant Colonel Allan Trainor joined the P.E.I. Regiment in 1981 as a Private. Before long he attained the rank of Sergeant, the rank commonly referred to as the backbone of the army.

In 1991, just 10 years after enlistment, he took his commission to the rank of Lieutenant and started the long journey of completing required courses and gaining the prerequisite experience to progress up the ranks to eventually become a Lieutenant Colonel and the unit’s 28th commanding officer.

During his career he has deployed on two peacekeeping missions, the first to Cyprus in 1988-1989. He was part of the more than 25,000 Canadian Forces members who served in that theatre over the 29 years of its existence.

His second deployment was with the PPCLI to the conflict between Serbians and Croatians. During this tour he was involved in the Medak Pocket, named after a military operation undertaken by the Croatian Army between Sept. 9 and 17 in 1993.

This battle was considered to be one of the most severe battles fought by the Canadian Forces since the Korean War. And, ironically, it was also the PPCLI who won that distinction on a hilltop outside the village of Kapyong, Korea.

As the Commanding Officer of the P.E.I. Regiment, Trainor is responsible for the organization, fighting efficiency, discipline, welfare and administration of the regiment.

He is a role model for the regiment and has the responsibility to lead in a professional, ethical and equitable manner. He must develop and maintain the teamwork approach and attitude with the regiment and have the courage in making and enforcing hard decisions.

The Commanding Officer ensures the professional development of his personnel. And, Trainor handles all these demanding responsibilities.

According to his troops, he meets all the prerequisites of the program and, as testimony to his professionalism, when asked about being nominated for tonight’s award, his only response was, “Ensure the soldiers are nominated first”.

Sgt. Brian Duncan

Sgt. Brian Duncan joined the P.E.I. Regiment in 1983 as a Private. His first trade was that of a musician and was an accomplished member of the regimental band, which plays in many local communities and events across the Island.

In 2008, Duncan augmented his musical trade and became involved in what is termed CIMIC, an acronym for Civil Military Co-operation.

In modern peacekeeping and peacemaking, reconstruction and development are integral to addressing the root causes of conflict and to the creation of a healthy and sustainable peace.

Destroyed infrastructure, human suffering, economic collapse and social divisiveness are all endemic in post-war societies.

If not addressed, these issues can severely limit the recovery of a war-ravaged land, possibly even preparing the area for renewed hostilities and further destruction.

Military forces do not immediately come to mind when thinking of development and reconstruction projects, such as those I just mentioned. But, since the end of the Cold War, this has been an evolving role of the military.

In 2010, Duncan decided to put these new skills to use and deployed to Afghanistan as a Civil Military Co-operation operator.

Acting as an intermediary between coalition forces and the local population was very challenging and very dangerous work.

He is another example of the sacrifice and dedication of Canadian Reservists who have stepped forward and augmented our Regular Forces.

Without this augumentation, it would have been very difficult for Canada to maintain its overseas and domestic commitments. He has helped put the new face to the term veteran.

Alan Ubsdell

In 1956, Alan Ubsdell joined the military as an apprentice soldier. He was only 16 years old, so he served as an apprentice for two years, taking schooling, military training and trade training.

Posted to Gagetown, N.B., for one year, he worked as a radio operator with 3 Signal Squadron.

From there he was posted to 56 Canadian Signal Squadron serving with the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt where he did two back-to-back tours in El Arish, as an air to ground radio operator.

From there Ubsdell went to Sharm El Sheik and provided long range communications back to United Nations Headquarters.

When he returned to Canada, he was assigned to Nova Scotia/P.E.I. Signal Squadron in Halifax and then to Charlottetown where he provided long range communications in high-speed Morse code within this squadron network.

It wasn’t long before Ubsdell was posted to Soest, Germany, where he served with 4 Combat Mechanized Brigade Group. He served there for three years at the height of the Cold War and the Cuban Crisis and carried out a variety of radio related work, mostly field work, as the Brigade Commander’s personal radio operator and a few other responsibilities which he refers to an “unmentionable”.

Ubsdell returned to 3 Signal Squadron in Gagetown and was immediately sent to Kingston, Ont., for upgrading and advanced training in communications. And, the following year he was posted to 711 Communications Squadron in Valcartier, Que., where he worked on long-range communications on radio, teletype and cryptography for four years.

It was during this posting that he was sent on a Facility Controllers Course in Clinton, Ont., and took over the Facility Control Centre responsibilities upon his return to Valcartier.

The following year he was posted to 2 Combat Group in Petawawa, Ont., in charge of the Radio Operators at 2 Signal Squadron and also completed a year with 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery providing communications to the heavy gun batteries and was subsequently posted to 1 Combat Group in Calgary where he was tasked to carry out, as he puts it, “many weird and wonderful things”.

During his final years in the Army, Ubsdell completed a tour in Cyprus with 3 PPCLI where he provided long-range telephone/radio communications for the troops, back to their wives in Victoria, B.C., using his Radio Amateur License.

Upon his return to Calgary, he submitted his release as he was informed he was going back to Egypt later that same year, and he was off the opinion that he had enough of being out of the country.

Back at home, Ubsdell was actively involved with boy scouts, minor hockey, minor baseball and amateur radio clubs.

He also provided numerous courses on safe driving, graphic art, St. John Ambulance and the list just goes on and on.

Capt. Brian DeCoste

Capt. Brian DeCoste joined the Prince Edward Island Regiment in 1985 as a private. He took to the life the Canadian Forces offered and transferred to the Regular Force in 1986 as a member of the Armoured Corps.

In his career, there isn’t much he hasn’t done or accomplished. Here is a listed example of the courses he completed:

- Advanced Armoured Gunnery;

- Tank Commander;

- Parachuting;

- Squadron Sergeant Major Course.

DeCoste has served with many Armoured units and his final posting before coming to the Island was at the Armoured School in CFB Gagetown.

That school is tasked with teaching all aspects of armoured warfare and trains all the gunners, drivers, and crew commanders from, not only, all three Regular Force armoured units, but all the Reserve Units from coast to coast (to coast).

He served there as a Chief Warrant Officer, which is the highest rank a non-commissioned officer can achieve.

In 2007 he took his commission to Captain and took over as Adjutant of the P.E.I. Regiment. His career truly having gone full circle.

DeCoste has been described as the “heart” of the P.E.I. Regiment. He has effectively co-ordinated all administrative and operational activities. He has been a staunch advocate of the regiment and the Canadian Forces and has made himself an example for, not only his subordinates, but his superiors as well.

DeCoste has served two peacekeeping tours. The first in Coralici, Bosnia with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in 1996 and the second tour in 2004 with an Infantry Battle Group in Zgon, Bosnia.

Service in Canada’s Forces has not been easy or without sacrifice for the DeCoste family, having lost his brother, Capt. James DeCoste, while on a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Bosnia in 1993.

The P.E.I. Regiment has nominated this gentleman and they say they can think of no one better to be recognized for his long and dedicated service to Charlottetown and to Canada.

 

Shirley O. Hennessey

The Halifax VE-Day Riots … which took place May 7 and 8, 1945 in Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S., began as a celebration of the Second World War victory in Europe.

This rapidly declined into a rampage by several thousand servicemen, merchant seamen and civilians, who looted the City of Halifax and especially the Olands and Keiths Brewery on the waterfront.

Although a subsequent Royal Commission blamed lax naval authority and especially Rear-Admiral Leonard Murray, it is generally accepted that the underlying causes were a combination of bureaucratic confusion, insufficient policing and antipathy between the military and civilians … fueled by the presence of 25,000 servicemen and women who had strained Halifax wartime resources to the limit.

Organizers in Halifax decided that on VE Day tram service would stop to discourage service personnel from going downtown.

Liquor commission outlets, restaurants, retailers and movie theatres all decided to shut and shutter their premises, ostensibly to prevent trouble.

Well, as we now know, trouble did happen. And, that day is now in the history books.

Hennessey is a member of the Women’s Army Corps who was serving at that time in Halifax as an administrative assistant.

A number of years ago, an article about the Halifax Riots appeared in the Star Weekly Magazine out of Toronto and our recipient was photographed and quoted in that Nationally distributed magazine.

 “I will never forget it.” Shirley Hennessey says of the morning this merry photograph was snapped on Spring Garden Road in Halifax.

She was just 19 and working in one of the city’s military offices when the news came out over the radio and the whole city was shut down.

“We were working down on the waterfront,’’ Hennessey said, “…and everyone just poured out into the streets. Ships were blowing their horns. People were shouting. Everything closed up and the party was on”.

Hennessey recalls how the festivities got out of hand.

“It wasn’t anyone’s intention to wreck the city but the riot just started out of joyous celebration.” she said.

“It was fuelled by joy. In hindsight, had Halifax left the liquor stores open, people could have celebrated without breaking in. People were sitting in store windows with fur coats on lounging on furniture. It really was joyous.”

She continues, “The Public Gardens on Spring Garden Road was full of sailors and all kinds of beer and all kinds of spirits.”

“It would have been unfriendly to pass by! We had to join in! But, shortly we were herded back to barracks for three days.”

Now, the picture accompanying the Star Weekly article clearly shows our next recipient with a bunch of sailors and each and every one of them has a bottle of Olands beer in their hands.

This caused much worry for Hennessey whose teetotaller father would have been appalled.

“There I am with a beer in my hand and I thought I was going to be in big trouble”.

But for some reason her parents didn’t get the Star Weekly that weekend. She was lucky.

Bottom line is it wasn’t her beer she had in her hand. She swears she was only holding it for another sailor!