Moments before Dr. Ken Helson was set to address a small group of fellow Taunton Mills residents gathered in The Ruby for a special Veteran’s Brunch on Remembrance Day, two Royal Canadian Air Force planes flew past overhead. From the 8th Floor view looking south to Lake Ontario, the two CC-130J Hercules offered a special tribute to those who offered their service to their country and the families who love and support them, in life and in death.
Ken, who served as a squadron leader and RCAF medical officer, spoke from his heart, describing how he joined the RCAF during the Korean War and served from combat bases where he lived with his wife and daughters. “Those we love serve with us at the same time,” he said.
“We must be grateful for all those who contributed toward the relative peace we all enjoy.”
Small ceremonies throughout The Villages commemorated the sacrifices of the past and present and, in solemn Remembrance, residents, team members and guests offered quiet gratitude. Some, like Ken, shared hints of the wisdom they gleaned from their time in service. We have a shared humanity, he said, that has become more clear as our world has grown smaller and people understand their global neighbours in new, personal ways.
“Everyone, wherever we live in the world, regardless of colour and the other words that can divide us, is a human with similar needs and feeling to our own,” he said. "Behaviour that considers the well-being of self, society and the universe is the norm we should follow in choosing a peaceful co-existence.”
He then spoke of a Dr. Robinson, whose story inspired him to enter the profession. Dr. Robinson, Ken explained, attended to the wounds of Canadian and German soldiers alike when they were brought before him by Canadian stretcher-bearers. When the Germans counterattacked and overran the Canadian lines, Dr. Robinson continued to do all he could for the wounded soldiers, this time carried by German soldiers.
“This act of humanity within the context of hostility is a constant guide to my behaviour,” Ken explained, and the room nodded with agreement. Grief, sorrow and sacrifice are the hallmarks of Remembrance for so many, and yet Ken’s words offered hope in our shared humanity.
Following the ceremony and the tears that fell, a fellow RCAF serviceman, Bob Robert and his wife Donna, stopped and spoke with Ken to thank him for his sentiments. Bob served for nearly 40 years as an RCAF navigator and saw more than 70 countries across the globe. He was proud to don his uniform today in honour of all who served and still serve, like his two sons who continue to offer their service in the RCAF and the reserves.
Bob and Ken swapped stories for several minutes, connected as they are through their experience. As time moves on and the quest for peace for all continues, those shared experiences are important lessons for all to hear. In them, we can find hope for our shared humanity, and this must never be forgotten.