The Royal Canadian Legion chapter of 100 Mile House invited 14 veterans and their accompaniments to dinner on June 8 for their annual Veterans Dinner.
“They mean a lot to people,” said Leo Holthusysen, vice-president of the chapter. “We don’t have that many here anymore.”
In total, 14 veterans came to dinner, including James “Jim” Milliken who served from 1939 to 1946.
The 98-year-old Navy veteran severed on the HMCS Skeena during The Second World War in the Atlantic. The destroyer’s chief function was protecting convoy routes from Nazi Germany’s U-boats. Milliken, who was a submarine detector, and the HMCS Skeena was also involved in several rescue operations, saving survivors from the British Merchant ships Manipur and Thornlea and two Norwegian Merchant ships, the Bruce and Salonica.
The HMCS Skeena was also involved in Operation Neptune, more commonly known as D-Day. Its mission was to clear shipping lanes of enemy U-boats before the main invasion force left England. It also had missions further in Operation Overlord (the entire Battle of Normandy).
“I personally thanked him and all the vets personally for liberating my country,” said Holthusyen, who immigrated from the Netherlands. “As somebody who was liberated, to me, it was a real honour to shake the hands of the guys who liberated us…If it wasn’t for the Canadians that dropped supplies we wouldn’t be here. It was the Canadians who liberated us, not the Americans, not the British, it was the Canadians. They saved my whole family.”
Holthusyen was born two years after The Second World War but was one of 12 kids. Only he and one other sibling were born post-war.
As for the dinner, Holthusyen said it was well-attended and described it as “awesome” and said the food was fantastic. The dinner was ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus and a glass of wine with dessert.
The dinner was prepared by the Royal Legion but served by local cadets. It was also free of charge for the veterans.
The Legion also sold some pictures high school students drew for a Remembrance Day contest, where the three best drawers were given prizes of $75, $50 and $25.
“The smile on their [veterans] faces was worth it,” Holythusen said of the entire evening.