One Sylvan Lake man is working to keep an important piece of Canada’s history alive.
On March 27th, Allan Cameron, executive director/producer and founder of Veterans Voices of Canada visited Lacombe to share a little bit about what he does with the community.
Veterans Voices of Canada is a project that documents the experiences of Canada’s veterans.
To date, Cameron has interviewed over 700 veterans and documented as well as shared their stories.
Cameron said that it is vital that Canada’s veterans have their stories documented. It is a sad truth that many of the country’s veterans, particularly those from the Second World War, are dying off simply because of age.
He said that if we don’t seize the opportunity to share their stories now, it will be lost entirely.
“If we don’t do the documentation, it’s gone forever,” said Cameron. “You don’t get a second shot at it.”
In his presentation, Cameron told the story of how he began Veterans Voices, a little bit about what the organization does today, and shared with the audience a condensed version of an interview with a local Lacombe veteran.
Cameron grew up hearing stories of his uncles’ exploits during the Second World War. It was hearing those amazing stories that led to him seeking out stories from other veterans today.
In particular, Cameron’s Uncle Perley was the one veteran whose story stuck out the most to Cameron and the one he heard the most.
It took some time for Uncle Perley to open up about his experience during the war, but eventually he agreed to let Cameron do a proper interview with him.
Unfortunately, before the interview could be conducted, Cameron’s uncle passed away. But, Cameron said that was what first gave him the desire to begin the Veterans Voices project.
“Before (my uncle) passed away, he said, ‘Allan, this is a good thing, we need you to do this, our guys and gals need to have their stories told’,” said Cameron.
So, he started seeking out other veterans to interview them and record their stories. It began as a personal project for Cameron, but today it has become so much more.
Through doing the Veterans Voices project, Cameron also had uncovered the story of his Great Uncle Ernest Hill who was killed in a skirmish with German forces on July 25, 1944 after fighting his way to Tilly-la-Campagne.
However, it wasn’t until Cameron shared Hill’s story in an article by Our Canada that he was contacted by a man who had been part of Hill’s unit that Cameron learned the full details of that story.
Cameron shared that story with those at the presentation and the details of how he came to learn it.
He said the story was significant because if Cameron had not been doing Veterans Voices of Canada, he never would have learned the whole story behind his great uncle’s death.
Today, what keeps Cameron interested in Veterans Voices is the obvious – getting to hear the incredible stories from Canada’s veterans.
He added that he considers himself lucky to be the one who hears the stories first-hand from the veterans themselves.
“A lot of the families (of the veterans) don’t hear the stories I do.”
When Cameron first started Veterans Voices of Canada, he approached local Legion branches for information to find veterans and stories to document. Now, he and the project have gained enough recognition that most of those veterans approach him directly.
“The first place you’re going to go when you think of veterans is the Legion,” said Cameron. “So the first couple years was going to the Legion and getting credibility.”
The majority of interviews done by Cameron are from veterans in Central Alberta as that is the area easiest for him to cover.
However, Cameron has conducted interviews across the country with veterans from the Second World War right up to the war in Afghanistan.
Veterans Voices of Canada has grown since being founded by Cameron in 2006. Cameron has even been able to branch out and develop a spinoff of Veterans Voices known as War Witnesses, which documents the stories of civilian survivors of the war who lived under German occupation and tells the story through their eyes.
Currently Veterans Voices is heavily involved in a Return to Normandy project.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of D-day and Cameron said Veterans Voices is trying to enable a group of D-day veterans and their families to travel to Normandy for the recognition of this historic day.
The goal of the project is to raise enough funds so that the veterans will not have to pay their way there.
Cameron said Veterans Voices is currently looking for corporate sponsors of the project.