Men to Aspire To

I was fortunate this week to meet three men whom I would confer celebrity status to. What is depressing is in all likelihood very few Canadians would be unable to identify them and what they are known for. How about you, could you name the Leader of the Official Opposition, the CDS and the former senator best known for his work to rid the world of child soldiers?

I drove an hour to meet Andrew Scheer at a Conservative BBQ out in Brookfield, NS last Monday. He was in my top three for my balloting choices for the new leader and I wanted to see what kind of man he was in person. Well, he’s a tall fellow. For some reason that doesn’t come across when you see him on TV during House of Commons question periods. He’s definitely a family man who has a passel of kids, five, all about 12 and younger. I had a chance to say hello to his wife and had a few words with the older son, who I found to be quite intelligent and able to hold a conversation. Mr. Scheer did the obligatory speech for the crowd but kept it short and light. When I shook his hand, I had to rib him about his Roughriders losing to my Bombers during the inaugural game at the new Regina stadium. All in all, he seems like a decent prairie boy and I am happy he is the new Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Through my Royal United Services Institute of NS connections, I was able to attend the Chief of Defence Staff’s unplugged talk about the new Canada Defence Policy. General Jonathan Vance has an impressive pedigree starting from joining back in the 80’s, to commanding troops in Afghanistan, to making it as the top soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is not a tall man but neither were his army predecessors Gen Rick Hillier or Gen Walt Natynczyk. I have met a few CDS’s over the years, the first one at CFB Summerside, PEI. I got to carry Gen John de Chastelain’s briefcase for a short period of time while he was visiting the air base. Gen Hillier was attending an Officer’s Mess function at 19 Wing Comox in support of a Boomer’s Legacy event. He definitely held rock star status. As for Gen Natynczkk, I was the OPI for a large mess function in his honour. He had been up for a flight with the Snowbirds and was a little green around the gills from the experience. It is always good to hear from these movers and shakers of the military as their vision by definition shapes the future of the military. Gen Vance is a consummate public speaker and was firm in his belief that contrary to the skeptics, the Defence Policy will hold the CAF in good stead for the next twenty years. I also liked the fact that he had little patience for a retired Major who was spouting nonsense over the recent ‘Proud Boys’ incident. I liked what I heard from the CDS and I feel the CAF is in good hands.

The last man that I was honoured to meet in person for the third time in my life, was LGen (Ret’d) Roméo Dallaire. It was close to a decade ago when I first met him giving a talk about Rwanda and child soldiers at the Syd Williams Theatre in Courtenay, BC. He took the time to greet as many people as he could to sign copies of his ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’ or to listen to your comments. It was obvious to me that he had the ghosts of a million Rwandans on his conscience. I met him again when he and a group of fellow senators came through Venture, the RCN training school in Esquimalt, BC for MARS officers, for a tour. Now, a few years later, I jumped at the chance to meet him again as he was giving a talk about his Dalhousie University program, Veteran Trainers for the Eradication of Child Soldiers (VTECS). Again, it must be a thing with army officers, he is not a large or tall man. Simultaneously, he comes across as frail and tough as nails. You can tell that he memorized his talking points long ago and they come off his tongue as old, familiar friends. He is also a man who doesn’t brook any guff and adroitly told a questioning twerp to ‘F’ himself after accusing him of war crimes. It has become popular for the supporters of the Rwandan perpetrators of the genocide to twist the massacre to shift blame to the retired general. This conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked along with the blame that the general was responsible for the deaths of ten Belgian peacekeepers at the start of the genocide. It is disheartening that along with the ravages of his PTSD, the man must put up with these unfounded accusations. As for his PTSD, according to his last book, ‘Waiting for First Light’, it seems as if death may be his only final release. I was quite impressed with the book and felt it was the best of his three works to date. I made a point to handwrite a thank you note and was able to deliver it to him at the end of the presentation. There was recognition in his face when we shook hands, even though our past meetings were very brief. I would have to say that he is a hero of mine and it has been a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

I have been a student of leaders of men for many decades. Hence, I have no interest in the show boaters or narcissistic selfie takers. It is a good week when you can meet powerful men in person to see what they are made of.

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.