My submission this week is a speech by Retired RCMP officer Bob Gray the president of the Army, Navy and Airforce. Bob is a dear friend of our departed Raymond Hessler(CD-Regiment Number SL 586), and all of us who attended his memorial service were so touched by this speech I felt the need to share it with you.
Ray was born in a small town of Ernford, Sask. which is between Morse and Uren on the main CPR line from Moose Jaw and Swift Current. There was not a lot of employment for a nineteen year old, so in 1948 he went to Regina and enlisted in the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. After completing basic training, he was posted to Calgary. In 1952, Ray was posted to the Royal Canadian Army Service Corp at CFB in Bordon, Ontario, and in 1953 he was posted to Germany with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which at that time Canada was a partner in an intergovernmental military alliance between twenty-nine North American and European countries. He returned and was posted to Regina in 1955.
Recently Ray was awarded a “Service Pin” from the office of the
Lt. Governor of Saskatchewan, recognizing his service while stationed in Saskatchewan. In 1959, Ray was posted to Churchill, Manitoba for a year and then was posted to Wainrwright, Alberta. Then in 1960, he was deployed to Egypt with the United Nation “Peace Keepers” until 1964 when he was returned to Calgary. In 1967, Ray was deployed to Cyprus, following which he returned to Calgary and was posted to No.1 Field Workshop. While here he was awarded Canada’s Centennial Medal. In 1969, Ray was posted to CFB Kingston, Ont. as an instructor. In 1970, ray was advised that his next posting would be to the Canadian Air Force. While he had no animosity towards the Air Force he decided that after 22 years it was time to retire.
Ray returned to Calgary but his military career did not end as he joined the Kings Own Calgary Regiment. He attained the rank of Warrant Officer, earning a clasp to his Canadian Forces Decoration. He retired from the Kings Own in 1973. In 1967 he joined the North Hill Branch of the Rayal Canadian Legion, commonly referred to as the Kensington Legion, Branch 264. He transferred to the Forest Lawn Legion, Branch 275 in 1994.
In 1998, he moved to Three Hills, Alberta and transferred to Branch 92. While there he served on the executive and numerous committees. In 2000, he was elected Vice president of the Branch and was their Service Officer attending to the needs of Veterans and their dependents. Branch 92 in recognition for his outstanding service was awarded the Legion Life Member Award. Following the death of his wife in 2004, he returned to Calgary an resumed his membership at the Forest Lawn Legion until his recent passing. At Forest Lawn, Ray served in many capacities including Honour Guard at funerals, Remembrance Day committee Stampede Week Committee, Branch representative with the 538 Buffalo Squadron or the Air Cadets, the Stampede Group Home Breakfast (this group home was owned by the Forest Lawn Legion who leased the premise to the government for one dollar a year to provide for six severely challenged young people). He also volunteered to serve wine and cheese to the residents of the Forest Grove Nursing Home located East of the Branch. Ray had a mischievous sense of humour and he was overheard speaking with a resident of that home who asked him if the wine was aged. Ray’s response was “it sure is, it was bottled last Tuesday”. In 2006, the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion held their biannual convention in Calgary and Ray was appointed the Sgt. At Arms. The Royal Canadian Legion has a number of awards to be presented to their members for recognition of service for assistance to Veterans, seniors, youth and their community. They are Certificate of thanks, Certificate of Merit, Life Membership, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Palm Leaf to the Meritorious Service Medal. Ray was awarded 4 Certificates of Thanks, on of Merit and his Life Membership. The next award is the Meritorious Service Medal, which was presented to him by the Forest Lawn Legion in 2008. In that citation it further states Ray’s accomplishments in the Legion but also advises of his involvement with building a cenotaph in the then Town of Chestermere Lake. This cenotaph was designed and built by Ray’s son Dick. Unbeknown to Ray, in the portion of this cenotaph recognizing the Peace Keepers, Dick engraved the portrait of Ray who is seen wearing his blue beret. Ray was speechless. Ray was honoured by the City of Chestermere and in council he was presented with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal by Bruce McAllister, MLA.
A number of years ago the Governor General of Canada authorized the creation of the Minister of Veteran Affairs Commendation. This was awarded annually to individuals who have contributed in an exemplary manner to the care and well being of Veterans or to the remembrance of the contributions, sacrifices and achievements of Veterans. The Honourable Seamus O’Regan of Veteran Affairs presented Ray with this Accommodation at ta ceremony held in Calgary during Veterans week in 2015.
One of Ray’s most cherished memories was attending the unveiling of the Dieppe Monument with his sons Dick on Don to honour the Kings Own prominent role in WW1 and 11, including Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach. Ray’s don Dick was the artist that created this spectacular cenotaph.
About 6 years ago, Ray wanted to recognize the Veterans with a special dinner, so he voluntold some volunteers and the Veterans dinner became a reality. He was also instrumental in starting a community foot care clinic held every six weeks at the Forest Lawn Legion
In 2018, Ray was nominated to receive the Palm Leaf to his Meritorious Service Medal,which as presented to him by the president of the Forest Lawn Legion in early July.
Amongst his volunteer activites hi was also a member of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, Unit 2 in Calgary. He was a member of the Centennial committee and the Sgt. At Arms. This unit celebrated 100 years of service in Calgary in July.
Included in Ray’s legacy is the memorabilia he collected and displayed at the Legion, many items personally purchased. He will also be remembered for his dedicated service and loyal membership of the various military organizations and his dedication to the poppy fund and Veterans food bank. Ray was a great friend and comrade. He is sorely missed.