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Meet our Veterans: two perspectives, from soldiers 50 years apart

November 11, 2021   ·   0 Comments

In honour of Remembrance Day 2021, The Times wants to help you get to know our local Veterans.

We’ve interviewed Hart Holmstrom, long time community volunteer and supporter, and Anthony Voutier, a soldier 50 years his junior, who has recently left the service to pursue his dreams of becoming a police officer.

Here are their stories, and thank you for your service.

Hart Holmstrom

What was your title/rank and in which division of the Armed Forces? Corporal, Royal Canadian Air Force

How old were you when you enlisted?

I joined the RCAF in 1954. I was 18 years old at the time. I was at Basic Training in St. Johns Quebec, then to trades training at Base Borden. Then transferred to Trenton working at a Repair Depot on Aircraft. 

How old were you when you were discharged, and why?

I was discharged in 1969, with three trades obtained from the service. I wished to literally “spread my wings” in civilian life. Final posting was radar base Sioux Lookout, Ontario, where I took my release after 15 years with RCAF to Alliston Ontario where I presently reside.

Which wars, if any, did you serve in?

I was transferred to West Germany in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis at the time of the Cold War. President Kennedy was assassinated during my time and tensions were very high. My next posting was to 4 Fighter Wing in Germany where I spent four years on a F86 Sabre Squadron as well as with the F104 Starfighter Aircraft. While in Germany with the NATO Forces, I also was on temporary duty to the following countries: 4 F Wing Germany (4 years; temporary duty in France as well as Sardinia (off the coast of Italy) also Switzerland temporarily as one of our squadron aircraft crashed and needed personal on site. From Germany to Cold Lake, Alberta, then transferred for more training with the School of Engineers Chilliwack, British Columbia. From Chilliwack to back to the RCAF Radar Base Cold Lake, Alberta.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time in service?

Being flexible and working in different situations and environments.

What do you wish you’d done differently, and if you could go back would you still serve?

I would not change anything as the training I’ve received during my time with the Forces has given me the opportunity to be where I am today.

What would you like to tell young men and women who are thinking of enlisting?

I would advise anyone if they get the chance to do so, they should. Also, my time spent with the young people with the 734 Air Cadet Squadron in Alliston was very satisfying as well and to see how the training and their experiences affected their careers as well.

Do you have any memories or stories you’d like to share from your time in service?

My spare time with the Trumpet & Drum playing the Glockenspiel in the military was also interesting as I got to see and experience places of travel with the band.

How has life been as a civilian post service? What resources have you utilized if any?

I guess my time guarding the downed fighter Aircraft in Switzerland was memorable and while on Temp Duty in Sardinia was having a Fighter Pilot as well as a Chaplin/Minister fly in piloting and 86 Sabre Jet to give us Church service was certainly a memory indeed. Most of my time has been very helpful to me in my civilian career. The Armed Forces prepared me well for civilian life in countless ways and has contributed to my success in business these past 44 years.

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

In summary, I am a lifetime member of Royal Canadian Legion (RCL Branch 171 Alliston and very involved with the Cenotaph and murals on the wall on the Allison Arena on Albert Street. I am also, a long-time member (48 years) of the Alliston Lions Club.

What do people need to know about Remembrance Day and its significance?

I think Remembrance Day is very important as a lot of people have given up their lives to make our Country what it is today for their sacrifices. This Remembrance Day, two local boys from Bradford & Alliston that were killed in Afghanistan are now added to the Afghanistan Monument at our Cenotaph will be honoured this November 11.

What is your wish for the world going forward? Peace and good will.

Anthony Voutier

What was your title/rank and in which division of the Armed Forces?

I was a Master Bombardier for the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School under the Combat Training Centre at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.

How old were you when you enlisted?

I was 21 years old when I enlisted.

How old were you when you were discharged, and why?

I discharged at 29 years of age after serving eight years and completing my terms of service. I wanted to pursue a career in policing.

Which wars, if any, did you serve in? What platoon/infantry did you serve?

I had never experienced any combat roles while serving in the Canadian Forces.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time in service?

The most valuable lesson I learned during my time in service was the importance of teamwork. There are many different obstacles to overcome within the military that may seem impossible at times, but you learn very early into your career that amazing things can happen when you work together. In my trade as a Gunner, it takes many different qualified personnel to come together to ensure a successful fire mission where speed and precision is paramount. This lesson can be applied to almost everything else you wish to achieve in life.

What do you wish you’d done differently, and if you could go back would you still serve?

There is nothing I wish I could have done differently. I had the privilege to work with the best Gunners on the planet and I only wish I could have given them more handshakes along the way. That chapter is done for me now, but I always think about it.

What would you like to tell young men and women who are thinking of enlisting?

I would tell young men and women to embrace everything that the Canadian Forces has to offer. You will reach moments in your careers that will test you on every level imaginable. Although you may bend at times, never allow yourself to break, and you will come out better than you were the day before. Always take pride in your work, be and look professional, and never forget the flag you wear on your shoulder. When you rise up the ranks always remember you are a product of the ones below you, and to treat them with the most respect you possibly can.

Do you have any memories or stories you’d like to share from your time in service?

I will always remember what it was like to be shooting howitzers with my detachment; everyone is exhausted, but when the fire mission starts, the adrenaline kicks in and things start to happen like clockwork. It was incredible to experience the collective effort from the women and men out there and how it all came together to achieve target rounds many kilometers away.

How has life been as a civilian post service? What resources have you utilized if any?

Life since my service has been great. It was quite the adjustment when I was first released, but I had done it properly and took the time to really do the things I enjoy and reconnect with family and friends again. Staying busy by giving my time back to the community really helped me out as well. I have utilized benefits which allow me to take some online classes to enhance my education in fields such as Abnormal Psychology, Astronomy, and even SCUBA diving. I am now currently working towards a career in policing.

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

Remembrance Day really strikes me as the most important day of the year. It is impossible to comprehend the sacrifices that our brave men and woman have made for us in the line of duty to enjoy the lives we have today, and it often gets taken for granted. It is our duty to always remember that our freedom has come with a cost, and we must continue to ensure that this is recognized for now, and for future generations.

What do people need to know about Remembrance Day and its significance? People need to understand the gravity of what it means to sacrifice yourself for a greater cause. They aren’t asking for a month. Just a day. Really take the time to teach your children the value of life and to honor those who gave up theirs for us so that this is never forgotten.

What is your wish for the world going forward?

I think my wish for the world moving forward is for people to start coming together, accepting the past mistakes, and focus collectively on a greater cause. Whether that’s towards medicine, or science, just something that can keep us all focused on a common goal. We live in a time where everyone expects perfection from everyone else and we are forgetting what is means to be human. It would be incredible to see what can be achieved if we look past our differences and work together more often.

By Wendy Gabrek



         


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