The experiences of a local military veteran have officially been chronicled by a national project released earlier this fall.
In early October this year, Historica Canada made a documentary known as Record of Service available to the public as part of an ongoing program known as The Memory Project. The video features the accounts of 15 Canadian military veterans including Leamington’s MWO (Ret.) William Wilson. Having served with the Canadian Armed Forces from 1988 to 2009, Wilson began working with The Memory Project — a bureau of more than 1,500 veterans and Canadian Forces members — about five years ago, offering presentations to local schools and community organizations on his own military experiences.
Having spoken to classes of various grades in elementary and secondary schools including W.F. Herman Secondary School, Catholic Central, Holy Name Elementary School and East Mersea Public School, Wilson was later asked to document some of his experience for the Record of Service DVD. His session was recorded in January of this year and was edited to a production length of about 24 minutes. The accounts of most other participating veterans in the project run an average of about 15 minutes. Copies can be ordered through the website www.thememoryproject.com.
Wilson, now on the board of directors for the Kingsville Historical Park Museum, explained that Record of Service is being used as educational resource material for high schools across Canada. The video presents the experiences of Canadian military personnel from WWII, the Korean War, Cold War, peacekeeping missions and Afghanistan.
“I’ve watched a few of them and they’re quite good,” Wilson said of excerpts he’s seen thus far from the other 14 participants in the video. “It’s a very interesting video collection that they’ve created.”
Wilson, who normally goes by “Bill,” first signed on for basic training in 1988 and has since served in globally-known regions of conflict including Somalia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (2000) and Afghanistan (2002). He served as a medic on each of his deployments minus a NATO mission circumnavigating Africa in 2007 aboard the HMCS Toronto, where he was a Physician Assistant — the same duties he takes on with his current career at the Met campus of Windsor Regional Hospital in Internal Medicine.
During his segment of the video, Wilson discusses memories of Somalia, Rwanda and Afghanistan. As a senior medic, he was on site when four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight injured by U.S. ‘friendly fire’ during a nighttime training assignment in Afghanistan. For his actions immediately following the incident, he received a Commendation. Wilson’s verbal accounts on the video are preceded by a warning advising audiences of graphic descriptions within his accounts.
Also in Afghanistan, Wilson was assigned to perimeter security at Kandahar Air Force Base. He was also part of tours with Rifle Company, deployed with the objective of finding and killing members of the Taliban and/or Al-Qaeda.
Wilson also appeared in Truth, Duty, Valour — a documentary that includes footage of the HMCS Toronto’s circumnavigation of Africa. Although the vessel did not encounter highjackers or pirates that were wreaking havoc at the time (2007), the crew did perform a mid night rescue after receiving a Yemen distress signal. Along with 10 others, Wilson was dispatched on smaller boats to seek survivors of a volcano eruption. The group recovered two bodies and rescued one man who had been treading water for about 20 hours.
“It was an event that really brought the ship together,” Wilson said. “It was quite an experience. We practiced for threats on the ship quite often. There was never a dull moment.”
As another means of developing an appreciation for the services of Canada’s armed forces, Wilson strongly recommends that area residents visit the Kingsville Historical Park Museum at 145 Division St. South, near Legion Branch 188.
“There’s a lot of great stuff there. It’s a real hidden gem,” he explained.