All my life I have taken pride in my ability to deal effectively with any given circumstance that is thrust upon me, especially when I thought I had the situation well in hand.
My training as an infantryman I thought, prepared me for any situation I might find myself in and how to analyze it, and best deal with it spontaneously.
The old drill was that, if fired upon, drop, roll and return fire immediately. On Sunday, Nov. 4 2012, I ran into a situation where I was confronted not with bullets but a closed historical event that left me lost for words and completely unprepared for.
No amount of training or guarded egotism prepared me for the presentation ceremony of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, celebrating the 60th year Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second's reign as Queen of Canada. Already sporting two other Jubilee Medals going back to 1977, I never imagined that I would be nominated for the third and rarest medal, the Diamond Jubilee. It can truly be referred to as the "Century Medal" since it it highly unlikely that the next in line to the throne, because of his age, couldn't possibly succeed the Queen before the end of this century.
I had the great honour and distinction of being chosen by Chris Charlton, Member of Parliament for Hamilton Mountain, to receive the coveted jewel of all jubilee medals. The grand invitation should have forewarned me of the elaborate plans that Chris had designed with the aid of her versatile staff, but thinking "Ho Hum! this should be very nice," I responded to her invitation and waited for the fourth of November to come around.
By noon on the fourth, I had put together my RHLI blazer with its silver embroidered bugle horn crest and polished up my four previous medals.
I thought how sad it was that I got to wear four medals with no bullets and my old dad got three after surviving the Normany invasion in 1944. Guess I was the lucky one!
Pulling my green beret down two fingers over the eyes and full dress inspection in in the hallway mirror, I put on my white parade gloves and drove to Michelangelo's Banquet Centre, where the presentation was to take place. Thinking I might be the only old crock in a vet's garb, I stiffened up and went inside. Forget "frontal attack," I was also surrounded on my flanks by Chris's workers that shepherded me into the great banquet room.
There, I was delighted to see that several other vets were present and waved me a welcome. Old friends like Commander (ret.) Bob Williamson CD and HMCS Star and Major (ret.) Don Kennedy CD of the Rileys had also been nominated for the prized medal for their life long hard work as volunteers.
Given a front row seat, I was number three in line to be decorated by Chris. As I wobbled my way cautiously to the dais (coming off being very ill) my past exploits in volunteerism was rattled off to my embarrassment, for hearing afterward the powerful work of the other 29 recipients, I was absolutely humbled, really for the first time in my life. I was indeed in excellent company. When Chris pinned that beautiful silver medal on, I couldn't help but think that in future, I will wear it for the thousands that should have gotten it.
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.