Historical records are full of statistics and figures about Canadians who have fought in wars and conflicts during the past century, but many of us have never heard first-hand from a soldier what the experience was like.
Allan Cameron with Veterans Voices of Canada wants to change this. Thanks to funding from the Central Okanagan Foundation’s Canada 150 Grants program, Cameron was recently able to visit the Okanagan and record the stories of 11 local veterans.
“We know how many fought and why, but who were actually the people with boots on the ground?” asks Cameron. “It took people to keep the peace, to make sure Canada remains Canada, and everyone involved has a story to share.”
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Cameron, who is based out of Sylvan Lake, AB, asks veterans to go in front of a video camera and engages in a conversation with them. The interviews are then shared publicly and online at www.vetvoicecan.org.
“I’ve done about 1,400 interviews so far and it’s impossible to become desensitized to their stories,” he says. “You can see through the camera how much it affects them, how they are taken right back to where they were years ago.”
Cameron explains that many of the interviewees suffer from PTSD and admit that retelling their experiences will affect them deeply for weeks to come afterward.
“Many are hesitant to talk at first, but most afterward say a weight has been lifted and it’s helpful to get it off their shoulders.”
Veterans Voices of Canada began in 2005 as a result of Cameron’s passion for history. He started by researching World War II that his uncles served in, and has since spoken with veterans ranging in age from 25 to 99 who were part of the Korean War and NATO peacekeeping missions.
He has also created the “Flags of Remembrance” event, where 128 flags are unfurled in locations across the nation in remembrance of the 128,000 Canadian lives lost in conflict. This year’s event occurred on Oct. 7 with Vernon as one of the participating locations.
“The grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation was so important so I could document the stories of local veterans. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support,” he shares.
Cameron is currently working on editing the Okanagan interviews, and will donate DVDs to local libraries and schools as well as posting them on the Veterans Voices website and Facebook page.
“My hope is that people will learn it’s important to talk, to understand and appreciate what they’ve sacrificed for us,” he says. “They have given years of their lives, and in many cases physical and mental sacrifices. We have to do better for our veterans.”
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