Shuffleboard at the Royal Canadian Legion, Picton Branch was quite a night. Men and women who had either served or were spouses of one who served were casually assembled for a night of drinking and games. Their thoughts were far from the days of war or service, the very thing that connects each of them together. They were full of spirit and loads of laughs, but some are reluctant to speak of some of the horrors they have seen. Their response is not uncommon.
Nearly everyone had a father or an uncle who had served in the first Great War. They recalled with pride the memories of sitting around their family rooms hearing about the tales their relatives had been willing to divulge, but even they knew there were things that service men were unwilling to repeat. The ghosts of battle were much too real, and even to speak of them had the ability to haunt the teller of tales.
Russ Miller sat at the end of a long table in the basement of the Elk’s Hall watching while waiting for his name to be called. He was quiet, unassuming and was utterly taken aback at the prospect of even being addressed. His first words were loud, but it was clear he had not heard what was asked of him, “Military life is great, highly recommend it.”
Russ had served in the Canadian military during peace time, as had most members of the existing Royal Canadian Legion. With the marching on of time, so has the last remaining World War II veterans who valiantly served either overseas or at home.
Russ was an aimless youth in his 20’s when he finally decided to join the military. It was the best decision he had ever made as it forced him to straighten up. The opportunities afforded to him were beyond his imagination and he was looking forward to being able to see the world.
He was stationed at various bases around Canada, but it was Ottawa where he met his wife. She too was a woman who was eager to travel and seek adventure, she was his perfect fit.
Russ was stationed in Germany for a period of about six years during the 60’s. It may have been peace time in terms of shooting and bombing, but the 60’s was the height of the Cold War. He remarked that the Russians were persistently watching their every movement. He admits that he was fortunate to be able to travel throughout all of Europe, and did so when he had occasion to take vacation. But the one place he longed to visit was Russia. Due to his station as Canadian Military personnel he was unable to travel across the border, so he sent his wife alone. She would return and report to him all about her experiences.
Russ retired from the military life in 1977 and has enjoyed living within Prince Edward County ever since. The benefit of a lifetime pension has made his experience with the armed forces that much more enjoyable.
His wife has since passed away, and they never had any children. Russ is a man who gave his life in complete dedication to his country, but never had a thought to the honourable vocation he pursued. He spends the rest of his days in quiet rest and leisure, a life well deserved.