Family military histories that may be lost can found again, thanks to the volunteers at CFB Chilliwack Historical Society.
“We try our very best to get as many veterans’ families in touch with their veteran’s stories,” says Jim Harris, from the society. Any veteran or their direct descendants can apply for their entire military history, including service overseas, any medals, and pertinent dates.
But when the information comes back, it’s abbreviated so heavily, it takes almost an expert knowledge of the military to decipher. That’s where the volunteers step in.
They provide the forms to be filled out, and they also can help people understand the documents that come back in the mail.
“The army marches on abbreviations,” Harris says. “It’s difficult to understand everything in the records. When people get them back they can be quite bewildered. But we can help them set up a timetable, whether they spent time in a hospital, or were hurt, anything relating to their service, including medals.”
Every military person’s information is available to themselves or their closest family members through the application process, and it’s a good way of keeping these family stories alive, he says.
“You get the records right from the very, very start,” he says. “From the first time they signed on the dotted line and committed.”
That’s just one service the volunteers provide. They also keep their military museum alive, with open hours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m for the public. They have more than 30,000 military artifacts now, at their site on Hocking Ave., in the basement of the Masonic Hall.
The volunteers also take the time to host school tours on site, as they did in late October. They also visit schools themselves. Recently, they attended a Veterans Appreciation at GW Graham school, that included a play and live music.
“They put on a marvelous play,” he says. “It was a tear jerker, it really was. And then the GW Graham String Orchestra came out and played for the crowd during lunch.”
But on Remembrance Day, they will take time out from their busy schedules and take part in the ceremonies, and they ask that everyone else does the same.
“Please go out and attend a service, and say thank you to a veteran,” Harris adds. “I would ask that people remember the families as well. I truly think that for every medal a soldier earns, their spouse should have two. They go through a lot of hardship as well.”
There are three separate services taking place in Chilliwack on Remembrance Day, November 11, this year.
• The downtown service begins at 10 a.m. at Evergreen Hall. A military parade will march from the hall to the cenotaph behind the Chilliwack Museum (Veterans Memorial Park) at 10:30 a.m.
• A service will also take place at All Sappers Memorial Park in Sardis. That service begins at the Vedder Legion 280 at 10 a.m. A parade marches to the Vedder Cenotaph at 10:30 a.m.
• A service is also held at the Coqualeetza Longhouse at the Sto:lo Nation on Vedder Road, beginning at 10 a.m.