AMHERST, N.S.- Vince Kennie sticks his chest out with pride at his 30-plus years of service with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Kennie spent 32 years in service of his country and recited High Flight by poet John Gillespie Magee Jr. during the Battle of Britain commemorations in Amherst on Sept. 16.
“It’s so important that we remember the battle and what it meant to the Second World War. We were literally fighting for survival and this battle helped show the Germans could be beaten,” said Kennie. “It was all about freedom of the world. It’s something that’s hard for us to comprehend today, but during the battle the future of Britain really hung in the balance.”
The words of High Flight mean a lot to Kennie because he often thought about reaching out and touching the clouds while in the air.
“I remember flying from Newfoundland to Halifax many times on the old Dakotas and you’d be flying through clouds so thick you think you could reach out and touch them,” he said.
During the ceremony at the RCAF Association 105 (Cumberland) Wing, members of the 154 Avro Anson Air Cadets Squadron assisted in the laying of wreaths at the base of a monument paying tribute to those who served in the Battle of Britain.
Amherst’s Mayor David Kogon and Cumberland County County Deputy Warden Joe van Vulpen were joined by representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion and RCAF Association and the air cadets in laying wreaths.
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who laid a wreath on behalf of the province, said it’s important to remember those who found and lost their lives in the Battle of Britain as well as other battles.
“My grandfather was a veteran of World War Two and drove trucks. Initially I thought that was pretty far from the Battle of Britain, but what I have come to learn is when a nation commits its forces to military conflict there are a lot of people who need to work together,” she said. “Many of us are familiar with the heroics in the air. On the ground there were few words that summed up the grit and determination of the people. This courage and perseverance in the face of adversity during the darkest hours led to this victory.”
She said that while Canadians have continued to serve, and die, in service of their country since the end of the Second World War and Korea, it’s something the nation has been slow to understand what it means to serve during dangerous times.
“Canadians have been slow to understand that not all wounds are physical. Injuries of the bodies and the minds continue to plague our veterans,” she said. “Some are lacking the basic supports they deserve. As a nation, we have not been consistent in honouring the pact between warriors and state.”