This year, many organizations celebrated Remembrance Day in the Valley as they do each year. The Legions in Hemmingford, Huntingdon, and Ormstown all had their own ceremonies, and the library in Ormstown hosted an art exhibit in honour of the day. Huntingdon resident and Canadian Armed Forces veteran, Dan Dorais, says that for him, celebrating Remembrance Day “will always be a priority” and that he will “participate in the parade for as long as possible.”
Dorais joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1984. His career spanned over 37 years, including five missions of six months or more. He worked with the United Nations in Cyprus for two Snowgoose operations in 1989 and 1990-91. He then served with the NATO stabilization force in the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and 2004. In Canada’s far north, he did an April-to-October tour of duty in 2001, at Canadian Forces Station CFS Alert at the 82nd parallel. He had done a two-month tour of the same region in 1995. He also worked in Haiti in 1998, training Argentinian soldiers on how to take over for the departing Canadians.
When he first joined the Armed Forces, Dorais was searching for discipline in his life. He graduated from École Arthur-Pigeon in 1983 with a double diploma – one in his regular studies, and one to be a construction electrician. Dorais says, “I was searching for myself a little bit. I wasn’t necessarily a bad boy, but I was pretty rock-and-roll.” It was his brother who recommended that he look into the Canadian Armed Forces. He joined the Forces armées canadiennes au Centre de recrutement de Montréal and says, “After three days in training I called my mom, and I was crying like a little kid. I asked her to come get me; I was in hell.”
Dorais wasn’t sure that he had made the right decision at first. “I didn’t want anything to do with it and didn’t think I had found my place in the army. But without meaning to do it, they must have seen that I was a pretty good soldier because after only two and a half years they sent me to do a course to be a master corporal.” Usually, a promotion like that takes at least five years to receive. After about six years, he was promoted to sergeant, which is a rank he maintained for years until he requested to return to corporal. He says “I like working, but I’m not a supervisor, I’m not an organizer of people. Give me work to do.”
Continuing to celebrate Remembrance Day is of huge importance to Dorais. Though there may not be as many World War II veterans around, it is still important to participate in this day. He notes, “It makes me so sad to see that a lot less people wear a poppy. It’s like it’s being forgotten.” He emphasizes that we are reaping the benefits of the work of so many people, and it’s important to remember them. “It’s incredible what people did at the time, to sacrifice their youth so that we can live freely.”
Dorais also worries that people seem to be less inclined to get involved with the Legion. He reminds folks that “The Legion is not just the poppy campaign,” and that it is there to offer support to people who have returned from the Canadian Armed Forces and are needing a community. “I’m lucky that with the amount of tours I’ve done, I’ve come back with a couple of physical injuries but mentally I’m good,” he says, adding that “I have a lot of friends who have come back with PTSD and other things like that after Afghanistan and Bosnia. So I think it’s important – the organizations are there to support people like that.”
What he needed
The time Dorais spent in the army developed in him many core values. “It gave me a confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. It taught me teamwork, camaraderie, esprit de corps… I don’t know what I would have been doing without them,” he says, explaining that the discipline is what he needed. The Armed Forces also instilled in him its three main values: “Respect the dignity of all persons, serve Canada before self, obey and support lawful authority.”
Dorais mentions that he has noticed, throughout his time working across Canada, that Quebec seems to have the least amount of recognition for the military. “I’d love for us to have pride in the military,” he says, adding that he hopes appreciation for the Armed Forces in this province will increase.