Ernie Peaker with a photograph of himself when he first joined the Navy at age 17 - Cloe Logan photo

Parksville man disheartened by notes on windshield saying he’s not a ‘real’ veteran

Anonymous messages at Parksville golf course said he should be ‘ashamed’ of special licence plates

Ernie Peaker joined the Canadian Navy in 1969 and spent 34 years serving — often at his base in Esquimalt, but also as far away as Cambodia.

So, when Peaker saw a note on his windshield admonishing him for his veteran licence plates this summer in Parksville, he felt disheartened.

“Well I was at my golf course and I finished playing golf… I noticed there was a piece of paper on the windshield and it wasn’t very nice,” he said. “Basically it said you should be ashamed for displaying these plates, you’re taking away from real veterans.”

It happened not once, but twice, at the golf course.

“Now I just take take the notes and put them in the garbage, I don’t think twice about it,” he said. “I’m quite comfortable about being a veteran.”

It’s part of a misconception, Peaker said, that veterans who served when he did didn’t see real violence — that they’re not “real” veterans. Peaker said not only did he experience traumatic things while in the Navy, but he had to spend a lot of time away — sometimes 200 days at sea a year, “especially in the early days.”

“You know some people think because you had been in the service for a period of time, but had never seen action, that you’re not a real veteran,” he said, while sitting at his kitchen table wearing a shirt with “Navy Marine” embroidered in yellow thread. “There’s veterans that never stepped outside of Canada and have never been put in harm’s way and they deserve the same respect because they served and they were ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

READ MORE: Meet the B.C. veteran who helped fight to recognize Remembrance Day

Peaker joined the Navy when he was just 17 years old. While looking at a photo of himself taken at the beginning of his service, he can’t help but laugh while looking at how young he looks.

“Still a kid, just hardly shaving,” he said.

In more than three decades of time spent serving in the Navy, Peaker went around the world several times. He was awarded the Order of Military Merit by the Governor-General, a Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal and other accolades for his service.

“I’ve served with the United Nations in Cambodia in 1992 for six months and in 2001, after 9/11, we were the first Canadian warship from Vancouver to go to the gulf with the American battle group,” Peaker said. “We spent seven and a half months over there.”

Peaker points to his time in Cambodia as something that stands out for him.

“We were the United Nations transitional authority in Cambodia after they ousted Pol Pot,” he said, referencing the Prime Minister responsible for the Cambodian genocide, which killed an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million people. “The things I saw over there, no body should have to see, the atrocities, it’s still in my mind.”

Still, when Peaker looks back at his storied career, he feels grateful to have had so much of his life spent in the Navy.

“I never had any bad days in the Navy, just some were better than others,” he said. “I say to my buddies, if we had two Navys, I would have moonlighted in the second.”

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN: Let’s avoid public shaming amid a dynamic health crisis

What is unacceptable today might have been fine last week

UFV student nurses offering respite to frontline nurses, care aides

Website helping to match volunteers with those who need help with daily errands

VIDEO: Head-on collision on Chilliwack Mountain Road

Road blocked in both directions Thursday morning

EDITORIAL: British Columbia’s renters and landlords needed help yesterday

Too little too late from both federal and provincial governments

COVID-19: Fraser Valley crafters are busy sewing cotton masks for health-care workers and others

One Chilliwack woman has made 125 masks so far, and is still going strong

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

Fraser Valley care home has two confirmed cases of COVID-19

Two residents at Mission’s Chartwell Cedarbrooke Retirement Residence have been diagnosed

Claiming she has COVID-19, stranger coughs in Surrey woman’s face

Cloverdale woman will now self-isolate for the next two weeks

Most Read