When you think of a federal government employee, unfortunately, we hear the comments and the generalizations that do not fairly apply. As a past Government of Canada employee myself, I remember people being shocked that I worked or in their minds, “didn’t work.” People assume that “bureaucrats” have taken advanced courses in being “red-tape specialists,” but this is not the case, especially when you meet an extraordinary employee like Gord Askew who does more than the specific duties his position entails.
Gord Askew has worked for Veteran’s Affairs Canada for over 28 years. He is the Standards, Training and Evaluation Officer for Western Canada after having worked as a teacher. He was seconded to work on the 50th anniversary of the Second World War Remembrance project called “Canada Remembers” in 1995. During this time period, he was responsible for helping communities recognize the contributions that people made during the war effort and particularly the war veterans. The federal government of the day took it as one of their important initiatives to recognize and learn from the past. They provided information, education, support and funding to many communities and groups. One of the first to come on board in Winnipeg was spearheaded by the Fort Garry Horse Regiment with retired Colonel Gary Solar and Honourary Colonel Jack McKeag.
They arranged a parade through Winnipeg, had ceremonies at the cenotaph and had a roll past at the legislature. Jack McKeag saluted the then Lieutenant Governor Yvon Dumont and Premier Gary Filmon in a tank. This is interesting in that Jack McKeag had already served as the Lieutenant Governor for the Province of Manitoba himself and now was on the other side of the salute.
In fact, Gary Solar arranged to have a special plaque of the five past existing Lieutenant Governors of the province made up and signed by each one. Interestingly, many had some aspects of their personal lives representing some component of their involvement with the military. Jack McKeag represented the Army, Pearl McGonigal represented the Air Force, George Johnson represented the Navy, Yvon Dumont represented the Métis and Aboriginals, and Francis Lawrence Jobin represented civilians. Gord Askew was given one of these few plaques for being part of this organizational committee of the 50th events, as well as having received a special one from the then Governor General of Canada, Romeo Leblanc.
Another event that was very special was a medal display case that was nearly 20 feet long. On the same fall day, it went from a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game earlier in the day to a Winnipeg Jets game that evening. Every recognized Canadian medal that could be awarded was represented. Many people were able to see this display during half time or intermission of their respective games back when the old football stadium and the old arena were in the Polo Park area. Where warriors fight on the grid iron and on the solid ice in battle, people could now see the medals of real heroes that fought real battles of significance to humanity and the world.
For the work done by Gord Askew, the Fort Garry Horse appointed him an Honourary Member of the Association. He then became a member at large, followed by duties as secretary and then has been President of the Fort Garry Horse Association for four years. These past few years have been particularly busy and heavy laden with extra responsibilities as the Fort Garry Horse Regiment is celebrating 100 years of historical contribution to Winnipeg, to the province of Manitoba, to Canada as a country and to the Commonwealth. From active involvement in World War I and II to Korea, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, the FGH has been contributing to war efforts and peacekeeping missions. In an effort to keep people free and societies running well, the Fort Garry Horse Regiment has been part of the solution and like their motto, “Facta non Verba,” have shown “Actions speak louder than words.” This is something that Gord Askew says is particularly important. The FGH help with peace keeping, peacemaking and support communities in times of crisis be it fighting floods in Manitoba to distributing food hampers at Christmas time.
The community remembers and appreciates what the Fort Garry Horse has done and so each Remembrance Day the McGregor Armoury is packed to capacity. This new location for Remembrance Day was started by Lieutenant Colonel David Atwell in 2003. Gord Askew also points out that the soldiers gain growth, opportunity, leadership and teamwork with their training. Gord Askew says “It isn’t about words…it’s about deeds.”
As veterans have been passing away each year since the war and progressively more so now, young people will forget what their parents and grandparents have sacrificed in the name that they may have privileges and benefits in living in a liberated country such as Canada. Too many times, people take for granted the rights won by Canadian soldiers. It is, for example, when Gord Askew took his son to a pilgrimage to Holland last year to not only recognize how the Fort Garry Horse fought there but stayed on to rebuild the cities after the war officially ended. The Dutch communities remember and teach this to their young children. Each child is given a Canadian grave to take care of and they do so with much care. Gord Askew was able to show his son, Phillip, what had transpired not too long ago but also showed him the gravesite of his own Uncle who had died over there. Luckily, Gord’s own father who was a tri-service member being with the Army reserves before the war, Navy during World War II and Air Force after the war, survived along with his mother who was a WREN.
In a similar fashion, Gord Askew has shown with action that he is much more than a federal government employee who punches the clocks to show up and leave. He has taken an active interest and like predecessors in his own life has contributed. His own lineage shows that he is a contributing member of society as an employee of the state and a participant to the cause. It is to thanks to members like Gord Askew who has contributed to the Fort Garry Horse family that they are releasing a 100 year history book on April 13, 2012 at McNally Robinson http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-11310/Gordon-T.-Crossley-and-Michael-R.-McNorgan—-Book-Launch
They are also celebrating with special events the weekend of April 12 to April 15, 2012 for the 100th anniversary of the Fort Garry Horse Regiment. For details as to events the public may attend, click here – http://www.fortgarryhorse.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=91&Itemid=99
Mary Mikawoz is a freelance writer, visual artist and photographer. She is also a teacher and new media specialist.