Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association - Manitoba
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Dioxin - Agent Orange

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History of The 

Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association (MB)

Compiled by Ron Parkes

Canadian Maple Leaf

By the mid 1980’s there were thousands of Canadians who had gone south and enlisted or were drafted into the US armed forces, and served in Vietnam, and returned to Canada. They all thought they were one of the few who had done so. Early in 1986, a Canadian Vietnam veteran, Rob Purvis, who had joined the US Army with three of his buddies from Winnipeg, Manitoba were curious about how many others had done the same. He wrote letters to the editor to all the major newspapers across Canada looking to contact other veterans. The response was overwhelming. He decided to organize a re-union to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Another objective was to lobby the US government so veterans with service connected disabilities could get treatment at local veteran hospitals. Close to one hundred Canadian Vietnam veterans some wives and two gold star mothers showed up. A ceremony was held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a Canadian flag and a rose was placed at the base for each of the Canadians killed or missing in Vietnam. Next on the agenda was meeting with the VA, Senate and congressional veteran committees, regarding the medical benefits. Two of the Canadian representatives chosen to speak were Rob Purvis and Ron Parkes. These two veterans dedicated the next 25 years of their lives to furthering the cause of Canadian Vietnam veterans. After leaving Washington, Canadian Vietnam Veteran chapters were set up all across Canada forming a loose national coalition.

What follows is mostly a history of the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association (Manitoba). We immediately started turning our group into a legitimate veterans’ organization, to assist and support Vietnam veterans in Canada. We were soon to find our war was not over. We had planned on taking part in Remembrance Day services held at the Convention center on 11 November 1987 along with the other veteran organizations. We were not prepared for the negative response we got from the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL). We were aware the RCL did not recognize our service and we were not eligible to become regular members. Our only request was that we be allowed to lay a wreath on behalf of our fallen comrades. We were told we could not participate in the service, we were called mercenaries, foreign troops, and traitors. Suggestions were made that we build our own cenotaph, or attend veteran services in the United States. Remembrance Day was only for Canadian veterans. From 1987 to 1993 the C.V.V.A. had to hold our Remembrance Day service out in the cold, at the Cenotaph in downtown Winnipeg. We held our service at 9:30 AM so that other veterans could attend our service and still make it to the official 11:00 AM service the convention center. In 1994 due to public and political pressure the RCL finally relented and allowed the Canadian Vietnam Veterans to become regular members and allowed us to participate in Remembrance Day services.

In July 1987 we attended the Vietnam Veterans of America North Dakota State Picnic. Strong bonds were forged between our groups that continue today. We have received friendship, support and assistance from our American brothers through the years.

On 13 May 1988 we received word that Amendment S894 to the Veterans Affairs Act was passed granting service connected benefits to Vietnam veterans in Canada. On 15 May 1988 the Army, Navy Air Force Veterans in Canada (2nd largest group of veterans in Canada) passed a resolution to offer regular membership to Canadian Vietnam Veterans. In 1988 we established the only official CVVA phone line in Canada. For the next six years it was a big help in connecting us with veterans from across the country. December of 1988 with the help of a counselor from the Fargo Vet Center we formed a PTSD support group. The group sessions were a big help to begin to understand problems related to our service.

On the 4th July 1989 weekend, Canadian Vietnam vets from across Canada attended the WELCOME HOME CANADIAN VIETNAM VETS event in Detroit Michigan. Thousands of Veterans were in attendance. The event was sponsored by VVA chapters in Michigan. It was an unforgettable event.
On 21 March 1990 we hosted a seminar on veteran benefits. The speaker was Brian Campbell, State of New York veteran service officer. Brian is also a Canadian Vietnam veteran. In September, the book
“Unknown Warriors” by Fred Gaffen, was published. Dedicated to Canadian Vietnam Veterans, the book is the first documented history to concentrate on the war experiences of Canadians in Vietnam. “Unknown Warriors” also deals with the issues created by the aftermath of Vietnam. In October CVVA member Pat Tower completed VVA service officer school in Washington, D.C. We now had an accredited service officer to help with inquiries and claims.

In March of 1993 the VFW magazine wrote an article called “Vietnam Vets North of the Border” which contained a lot of information on Canadian veterans. On 29 September the Royal Canadian Legion sent a letter to the Joint Veterans Parade Committee (JVPC) here in Winnipeg stating they would pull their members out of any parade the Canadian Vietnam Veterans marched in carrying their colors and in their uniforms. In October the JVPC comprised of various veteran groups, passed a motion to allow the Canadian Vietnam Veterans to march as a unit in the 11 November Remembrance Day Parade. Despite their threats, the RCL did not pull out of the parade. Our “war” with the Royal Canadian Legion was over. The treatment we received from the Royal Canadian Legion was one of the bitterest experiences we had as an organization. From 11 Nov 1993 to the present we have marched as a unit and laid a wreath
for our fallen comrades at the official Remembrance Day service .

In April 1994 the CVVA hosted a workshop on TSD. The presenter was Dr. Jim Tuorila, a psychologist and published researcher in PTSD. Jim is also a pilot with Freedom Flight Inc. the POW-MIA Hot air Balloon Team.
At the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Convention in 1994 they passed a resolution allowing Canadian Vietnam Veterans to be eligible for regular membership in their organization. Too late. They didn’t want us when we needed them!

On 2 July 1995, the Canadian Vietnam Veterans National Memorial was dedicated in Windsor, Ontario.
The “NORTH WALL” as it is also known, was funded and built by the Michigan Association of Concerned Veterans (MACV), headed by Michigan veterans Ed Johnson and Rick Gidner.

In June 1997 the CVVA was proud to unfurl our new unit flag. A quality regimental flag, the background the Vietnam Service Ribbon, center insignia of the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association flanked on both sides with a campaign star representing Canadian and American Veterans.

On Labour Day weekend of 2001 the CVVA held its first “Rendezvous” at the cottage of Ron and Connie Parkes, in Lancaster, Minnesota. This event brought together veterans from Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota and has been held annually ever since.

On 11 June 2005 the CVVA unveiled a travelling “Memorial Wall” designed and built by Doug Anderson of the Fargo Air Museum. The gleaming red and white memorial, depicting the Canadian flag, has the name, date of birth, rank and branch of service of the 127 known Canadians killed or missing in action from the Vietnam war. Also included are the names of four Canadian military personnel who were killed there while serving with the International Control Commission. Our travelling memorial dubbed the “Red Wall” has travelled to veteran events and other venues in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba.

In 2009 Rob Purvis and Ron Parkes attended the VVA National Convention in Louisville Kentucky, as delegates from North Dakota VVA. They were recognized as Canadian veterans by the VVA National President John Rowan and given a rousing ovation by convention delegates. To Rob and Ron this was true recognition of their twenty some years of service to the CVVA. We have to give thanks to our wives, Connie Parkes and Shirley Purvis whose support, commitment and assistance kept us going thru the years. We also recognize our fellow veterans, family, associate members and friends who have given us unwavering support over the years.

On 10 December 2011 the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary as a veterans’ organization. And we are not done yet.

Since 1986, the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association has worked tirelessly to provide pertinent information to Vietnam veterans in Canada concerning their benefits, Agent Orange and PTSD. We have helped hundreds of vets in submitting service connected claims. We have helped restore their pride in service and made Canada and United States aware of the thousands of Canadians who volunteered, crossed the border and fought with her allies during the Vietnam conflict. What it is all about is helping your buddies. There was an unwritten promise that we should be there for each other, and leave no one behind.

TOGETHER THEN - TOGETHER NOW

 

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