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Veterans relive memories of a time gone by

08-Sep-2016

Picture a young boy with dreams of becoming a pilot.

WRC veterans visit
WRC veterans visit with pilots from 15 Wing Moose Jaw

Now, fast forward to the start of the Second World War when the need for more men to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces became a reality. This is where Captain Stan Johns got his first taste at fulfilling a childhood dream, becoming a pilot. “It was 1941 when I joined the Air Force and got my wings,” said Captain Johns. He began flying Mosquitos, a heavy fighter aircraft, during the war and flew several missions during his time in the Air Force. Captain Johns, now 95, lives on the Veterans Unit at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre and to this day still has dreams of flying.

Sandi Hebig, a recreation coordinator for the Veteran’s Unit, wanted to help Captain Johns and a few of the other veterans relive memories from a time gone by. “They know they will never fly again, but if I can give them a day to share their stories with a younger generation of pilots and reminisce about their time in the military, I wanted to do that for them. Anything we can do for them will never compare to what they did for us.” Sandi reached out to 15 Wing, the Air Force base in Moose Jaw, to see if they could partner up to create a new memory for her residents. The base was excited about the possibility, which quickly turned into reality.

WRC Veterans
Captain Johns and a few of the other veterans living at WRC visit 15 Wing, the Air Force Base in Moose Jaw.

On Monday, August 22, 10 Veterans from Wascana Rehabilitation Centre donned their military attire and made their way out to the Regina Airport. There at the Shell Aero Centre, Major Bassam Mnaymneh from 15 Wing along with several other pilots met our veterans. Major Mnaymneh was happy to show off the aircraft he flew, sharing stories and listening to some of the experiences the gentlemen had during their days serving in the Second World War.

Second Lieutenant Robert Camilleri was one of the pilots in training that attended Monday’s event. He too shared the childhood dream of flying, even joined the air cadets as a teen receiving his civilian pilot’s licence at the age of 17. Lt. Camilleri is currently working to obtain his wings with the air force and couldn’t pass up the chance to come out to meet some of our veterans. He was interested to hear their stories from the war and learn about how much things have changed over the years. He recalls speaking to Warrant Officer Second Class Glen Heisler, an air gunner in the Second World War.

Officer Heisler served in the Forces for 26 years, and during the war, while flying in a Lancaster heavy bomber aircraft, he shot down four German fighter planes. “It was an amazing opportunity to talk with the veterans,” said Lt. Camilleri. They had very different experiences from what he and his fellow brothers have today.
 
The feeling of flying an aircraft is not one that is easily forgotten. A pilot will always be a pilot and the experiences that the members of the armed forces share can never be duplicated.
 
The staff at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre were overjoyed to have made this day a reality for our veterans.