THE VETERANS: DISCOVERING CANADA’S PAST THROUGH THOSE WHO WERE THERE
By Colonel (Ret’d) Andrew Nellestyn OStJ HCE MPPE PhD PEng, Co-producer The Veterans
Some three years ago Daniel R. Rodrique, a documentarist and author, took a bold and ambitious step. He decided to produce a documentary series on Canada’s veterans and serving men and women in the CF which would be of unique historical importance and which would feature not only the sacrifices made by these gallant men and women but would cast this in the mold of the CF’s contributions to nation building and world security. The documentary would be called The Veterans. A production team was formed and what was first assessed as a one-year project became a gargantuan effort which would take three years to complete. And all on a voluntary, not-for-profit basis.
The Veterans illustrates the impact of Canada’s participation in foreign conflicts and crises on Canada, Canadians and the Canadian Forces (CF). The documentary is also a production in which veterans and serving men and women of the CF talk of their experiences in their own words and convey the legacy for which they wish to be remembered. It consists of 52 episodes each of 40 minutes in length.
The documentary has two streams:
1. The history and evolution of the CF from WWII through to and including Korea, peacekeeping, the Cold War, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. It deals with all aspects of operations in these theatres: defence, security, economic development, governance, humanitarianism, etc. It examines the impact of the changing nature of war on doctrine, operations, education, training and equipment. Every branch of the three services (Navy, Army and Air Force) is featured be this operational, support (health services, chaplaincy, logistics, maintenance, etc.). The contributions of such organizations as the Salvation Army, St John Ambulance, the Red Cross, CFPSA/CFPSP and Tim Horton’s as well as NGOs are illustrated. The impact of defence Science and Technology and the formation of the defence industrial base are also discussed. Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency and whole-of-government strategies and activities, in other words, the evolving and changing nature of warfare are expounded upon. DFAIT, CIDA, CSC and other departments of government are included wrt their contribution to Team Canada Afghanistan and the ISAF whole-of-government mission.
2. The history and evolution, that is, the coming of age, of Canada from WWI through to and including Afghanistan are examined. WWI was chosen as the start point. WWI heralds Canada’s coming of age as it marks the first time Canada exercised full sovereignty: the command of the Canadian Expeditionary Force by General Currie and his reporting channel to Ottawa vice the British Foreign Office in London. WWI also began the transformation of Canada to an industrial nation. The documentary touches on the impact on Canadian society, changing lifestyles and values, governance and Canada’s increasing and influential role on the world stage such as economics, finance, trade, diplomacy, participation in international institutions, membership in the G Heads-of-Governments club, the IMF, World Bank, WTO, human rights, etc.
The documentary has been widely and most favourably commented upon and supported by the media. Participants in The Veterans are drawn from all walks and levels of society and include many leading men and women in the private sector, academia, government and the military. Equally important is the participation of Non-Commissioned Members (serving, retired and veterans). The episodes are introduced by Senator Pamela Wallin.
The documentary features MGen (Ret) Mackenzie, WO Willy MacDonald (PPCLI), General (Ret) Hillier, MCpl Erik Poelzer (EME), Capt Ray Wiss MD, the MND, the CDS, LCol Sebastian Boucher CO NSE Roto 10 Afghanistan, CWO Gilles Godbout RSM NSE, Col Bob Elvish (EME), Maj Devon Matsalla (EME), BGen Dean Milner Commander TFK, LCol Mike St-Louis CO TFK BG, General (Retd) Paul Manson, VADM (Retd) Ralph Hennessey, Ambassador Tim Martin DFAIT Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team and a host of other retired and serving military personnel. The RCR, R22iemeR and the PPCLI deployments to Afghanistan are featured. Colonel (Retd) Andrew Nellestyn filmed on location and interviewed CF personnel during Roto 10 which was based on the 1st Battalion R22iemeR Battle Group and drawn principally from CFB Valcartier.
A selection of pre-released episodes can be seen on www.pwu.ca by clicking on the Veterans logo. The contributions of the Reserves and the importance thereof in missions such as the Balkans and Afghanistan are also featured. HColonel Blake Goldring expounds on the challenges faced by the Reserves and offers options as to how best to maintain this important element of the combat arms order of battle. Episode 19 featuring the MND and CDS sets the theme and tone for the series. Episode 24 Capt Ray Wiss MD, author of FOB DOC and A Line in the Sand, is a most informative and gripping account of the Afghan theatre. It is noted that the episode numbering on the PWU website will be re-ordered for the final release.
The documentary’s principal financial supporter is the Power Workers Union (PWU) of Ontario. Other contributors, both financial and in-kind, include corporate Canada, individual Canadians, universities, policy institutes, professional organizations, departments of the Federal Government, veterans, serving men and women of the CF, Navy, Army and Air Force Associations and private foundations.
The documentary will be officially released in November 2011. It is intended that The Veterans be officially released/premiered (on an episode excerpt basis) at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa during the CWM’s Remembrance Day Week 2011 activities.
This is a unique historically significant documentary in that, unlike other documentaries about veterans which consist principally of talking heads with little national and global context, The Veterans examines all the dynamics related to Canada’s participation in foreign conflicts and crises which impacted, and continue to do so, on Canada, Canadians and the CF. It is these factors which set The Veterans apart from other documentaries about those men and women who served and are serving in Canada’s military.
The documentary will be gifted to the people of Canada and be available free of charge. It will be accessible on the Internet and will be shown by various television broadcasters. Interviews were conducted in both official languages.
The target audience is today’s and tomorrow’s young men and women, tomorrow’s leaders, so that they may know not only of the sacrifices made by those who served Canada during war but also how veterans shaped and build a proud nation. The focus for young Canadians will be on civics, citizenship, nation building and leadership.
The Veterans production team also created a documentary on Currie Hall for the RMC Foundation narrated by John Cowan. Additionally, John narrates a documentary on WWI which was filmed at the CWM.
Indeed RMC is featured in the documentary as its role in training and educating officers, peace and security missions and nation building has been and continues to be considerable. RMC, indeed the CMCs have had a most positive and lasting impact on shaping the CF and Canada; comparatively much beyond that of other Canadian post-secondary educational institutions.
RMC punches above its weight!
LEST WE FORGET