LOREBURN - On a day that appropriately happened to fall on what's known as Military Family Appreciation Day, two local veterans of World War II were honored with a celebration in the village of Loreburn, signifying their remarkable ages and recognizing their contributions and legacy when it came to Canada's war effort.
Held on Friday, September 17 at the Loreburn Town & Country Centre, the party put a central focus on Robert Taylor and Lyman Peardon, who were proudly clad in their Royal Canadian Legion colours. Although the venue was full, everyone practiced their due diligence and wore a mask, noting the provincial COVID measures that had fallen on that day.
Incredibly, Lyman will turn 101 years old on Christmas Day, while Robert will mark 100 years on December 14, so the afternoon was seen as something of an early birthday party. Peardon and Taylor were presented with pins, lithographs and ball caps to mark the day, while it was noted that 2021 marks 100 years of the Remembrance Poppy, further signifying the importance of this occasion.
Among the special guests were Lieutenant Colonel Denis Bandet and Chief Warrant Officer Richard Ries of Moose Jaw, representing the Snowbirds and the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron. Bandet touched on the history of both men in the military, noting that he hadn't been thinking of doing what they did at such a young age.
"The bravery and the desire to do their part for the greater good is really something that's amazing," said Denis. "At 23 years old, I know that I wasn't doing that. That's all pretty amazing and my respect goes to you."
Both men are seen as very devoted to the local Legion branch in Loreburn/Elbow, a devotion that dates back to when they decided to join up and represent Canada in time of war. Flight Lieutenant Sgt. Robert Taylor enlisted in the RCAF Air Crew Division in August 1942, finding himself transferred overseas two years later in order to serve in several bases in England, Wales and Scotland, obtaining the rank of Field Sergeant along the journey. Taylor transported troops to India, eventually receiving his discharge in September 1945.
Officer Lyman Peardon's own story began when he enlisted in the RCAF in September 1941, training as a wireless operator in Calgary before going to gunnery school in Macdonald, Manitoba. Peardon once flew from Nassau in the Bahamas to Africa, considered a big feat at the time. By December, he had deployed to England and delivered gliders for what would become known as D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge. This was considered later to be the turning point of the war. Peardon was discharged in 1945, at which point he came home.
Bandet said the service and the sacrifice done by Veterans such as Peardon and Taylor does not go unnnoticed by those of current generations.
"Over the years, there have been quite a few occasions where we go to different Legions and meet with Veterans," he said. "A lot of people look up to professional athletes for guidance and inspiration, and I can tell you that that wasn't me. I looked at the people who wore a uniform and tried to understand what they went through, and that served as my motivation to join the RCF. It was your contributions and what you did for Canada and the world that made the world a better place and led us to where we are today. You continue to inspire my generation and future generations to do better and cherish what we have, and we don't take that for granted."
Taylor addressed the room full of well-wishers, sharing a personal story from his time spent in the air force during wartime.
"I have to say that my trip to India was a highlight of my years in the RCAF," he said. "I had a wonderful trip, and it's something you don't get a chance to do very often. I'll tell you, on that trip at one time, we left Iraq and were flying along on the way to Karachi in India. I had two pilots and myself in a huge York transport plane, and we were flying out of Iraq one afternoon. The co-pilot was having a nap after flying in the night, and the pilot was getting a little weary as it was very hot. He asked me if I'd ever flown an aircraft, and I said I had, but not this size! He said that's okay, but he wanted to put a newspaper up on the glass and have a little snooze. The plane was flying automatic, but he told me he wanted me to correct the compass every 15 minutes. I sat there and flew the plane, I still had controls, and I was there for at least an hour. That whole trip, I'll never forget it. There were a lot of new things in the air force, and that was new to me, I'll never forget it. It was worth the whole time I spent in the air force."
Taylor says that making the decision to serve his country wasn't necessarily a hard one to make, and it's something that made an indelible impact on his life.
"It wasn't too hard, really," said Robert. "It's a pretty good life. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed every year no matter what I was doing. There were some disappointments like at any time in your life, but that trip that I took down to India, that was worth it all! I'll remember that for the rest of my life and then some."
Taylor says he would tell anyone with an interest in the Canadian military to consider serving their country, as it's something that changed his life. The war brought with it all manner of occurrences and a potent mixture of good and bad, but for him, it was something worth doing in his life.
"I would encourage them," said Robert. "I'd do the same thing over again myself. I loved the air force, and it's treated me very well since. They've been very good. I never forget the air force, and I stayed with the Legion. I would encourage anybody to take it up in their lifetime. There are people who had lots of disappointments, people who lost their life, but that never entered the picture at all for me. That never worried me, and I thought it was a privilege."