Every year in November, the poppy-bearing vets are out offering up the red flowers on a pin in exchange for your donation. Guy Duchaine and Harvey Truax are two veterans who are helping with the poppy campaign this year. Their stories of what they gained from enlisting are different in some ways, and in others very similar.
Harvey Truax joined up in 1960 when he was 20 years old.
“I’d always wanted to,” said Truax, who grew up on a farm in Matheson, Ontario and was emboldened to enlist when his neighbour joined the airforce. It was an opportunity for him to get an education and a trade, something not available in Matheson.
After basic training in London, ON, Truax became part of the Army Signal Corps, who were responsible for communications. There, he was a radio operator and electrician, and it was there, too, that he learned to love motorcycles.
“In the communication corps, we had our own bikes,” said Truax, who is still an avid rider to this day.
But his adventures didn’t end there; he also earned his paratrooper wings and has jumped out of planes an incredible 82 times. Truax said the view was unbelievable, it was amazing what you saw once your chute was open and you were coming in to land.
His service took him overseas to Gaza as part of peacekeeping. At the time, Egypt and Israel were trading rockets back and forth, which was nerve wracking for patrolling peacekeepers.
“At times it was real tense,” Truax told the Arrow Lakes News.
One of the most rewarding times with the Armed Forces for Truax was setting up a cadets program in Mackenzie, in northern B.C.
“It was really rewarding, seeing how kids advance themselves,” he commented, noting that there wasn’t much for young folks to do up there, which could lead to trouble. Now the program gives out a Harvey Truax Trophy each year for the top cadet.
Truax has been part of the Legion for over four decades, and is very active with programs for all ages, from youth to seniors.
Guy Duchaine’s service started about the same time, in ‘61, but with a very different beginning.
Duchaine was the black sheep from a family of means, and it was just a matter of time before he ended up in court. The judge gave him a choice between Juvenile Detention or the army, so Duchaine chose the latter.
“It was the best decision I made,” he told the Arrow Lakes News.
In the army, he was taught how to deal with his anger. When you’re in the army, he said, you’re meeting people who are very angry, so you have to be very calm.
It was there that he learned not only how to deal with his feelings but also how to motivate other people and work as a team.
Duchaine was part of the Engineering Corps, and also travelled to the Middle East on peacekeeping missions. He also travelled to the most northern parts of Canada, setting up military facilities there, too.
In the army, Duchaine said, you can trust what people say because everyone is working together. It took him a few years to adjust to civilian life where that isn’t necessarily the case after he left the service in 1982.
His experience learning how to work with people and motivate them to do more than they thought they could, translated into working with different companies teaching those lessons he learned in the army.
The education that both Duchaine and Truax received being part of the armed forces are not only skills that they use to this day, but an attitude of camaraderie that they bring wherever they go.
If you’ve got time, this year, when you’re buying your poppy, ask the veteran who is standing outside about his time in the Armed Forces. What you will hear will be an interesting story, no doubt.