History of The
Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association (MB)
Compiled by Ron Parkes
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
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
“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
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
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