Joël Furoy spent much of the spring like everyone else in Nova Scotia, waiting for the snow to melt. The Canadian Naval Chief Petty Officer Second Class was anxious to see what damage the winter had done to the QEII’s Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Garden. With the garden finally free of ice and snow, Joël began marshalling his contingent of volunteers — 70 to 100 people drawn from all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Halifax. Their job is to clean up the mess from the harsh winter.
“We get an outstanding level of support from all our volunteers,” he says. “Everyone – from the people who rake and plant flowers, to our engineering crew who show up with the heavy artillery — the bobcats, trucks and heavy equipment. It’s a big job.”
It’s also part of a strong bond between the Canadian Armed Forces in Halifax and the 175 veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War who now live at the QEII’s Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building. Every year Forces personnel give some of their time to a variety of ceremonial and fundraising events to help and honour the veterans.
The average age of the veterans is 91. They take part in a range of opportunities from bocce, painting classes and music, to day trips and tai chi. “The garden is a key place for them,” says Heather White, manager of Rehab and Supportive Care Services. “It’s an incredible sanctuary and the veterans love to see our current serving members participating in its upkeep.”
For Joël, overseeing the spring and fall cleanups of the Veterans Garden is just one of the volunteer jobs he performs for veterans. He also organizes volunteers to support five ceremonial veterans’ events every year, including D-Day and Battle of the Atlantic commemoration, and Remembrance Day ceremonies. He does this in his spare time, when he’s not working at his job as a military internet security expert.
The Canadian Armed Forces also has a longstanding relationship with the Halifax Mooseheads. Every year the Mooseheads host a military appreciation night and play a game wearing uniform jerseys specially designed for the event. After the game, the jerseys are auctioned off with the proceeds going to the veterans.
Supporter and Royal Canadian Navy Honorary Captain, Fred George, has taken part in the action as well. After placing the winning bid on the Jonathan Drouin jersey in November 2013, he donated it back to the veterans. The jersey now hangs in the lobby at the QEII’s Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building.
“Because they’ve been worn during a game, they have value,” says Captain Angus Topshee, Base Commander at CFB Stadacona. “Especially when you get a guy like Nathan MacKinnon wearing one.”
Stadacona Band also performs a number of events for the veterans every year, including the popular “Til We Meet Again” concert around Remembrance Day, with all proceeds going to the QEII's Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Garden.
“We get amazing support from everyone, from the Admiral’s office on down,” says Elsie Rolls, director of Veterans Services for the QEII.
Joel says his volunteer job is a privilege. “These veterans answered a call many decades ago. It’s hard to imagine what they did for their country. They left their jobs, their families and they went away to Europe for years to fight a terrible war. The least we can do is let them know they are not forgotten.”
Captain Topshee agrees. He says that young people serving in the Canadian Armed Forces today have a lot to learn from veterans’ experience and wisdom. “I’m touched by the way Canada’s youth today understand the importance of what these veterans did. Their personal stories lend depth to our history. Any contact that we have with the veterans is immensely beneficial to us on a number of different levels. Also I think we owe them a huge debt.”