Cadets remember fallen soldiers from wars past

Getting together for dinner is something every family tries to do and it’s no different for the air cadets.

Getting together for dinner is something every family tries to do and it’s no different for the air cadets.

The 65 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron held its 16th annual Dining in Night Feb. 16 at the Ponoka Legion, not only to fundraise but to remember fallen comrades, stated warrant officer second class Rebecca Nicholson, president of the mess committee.

It is also a time for friends and family to be together and she enjoys the “fact that everyone wants to show respect.”

The dinner began by honouring three fallen soldiers whose hats were represented on an empty table at the front.

• Lieut. Robert Gray from Trail, B.C. in November 1917, who aided in attacking the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944 and for aiding in the destruction of a destroyer in Tokyo, Japan in 1945. He and his plane went missing but his name is inscribed on the Sailors’ Memorial in Halifax, N.S.

• Cpl. Frederick Topham was born in Toronto, Ont. in August 1917 and was a medical orderly who parachuted with his battalion to a heavily defended area of the Rhine.

Topham was shot in the nose while tending a wounded soldier in the open and refused aid for two hours until everyone was cleared and safe. He died in 1974 and is buried in his hometown.

• Flight Lieut. David Hornell was born in Toronto, Ont. on January 1910 and was with the Royal Canadian Air Force on sea patrol in June 1944. A U-boat damaged the plane and he managed to land it in the water. The only serviceable dingy could not hold the entire crew so they took turns in the water. The crew was rescued 21-hours later but Hornell was blind and weak from exposure and he died shortly after. He is buried in the Shetland Islands.

These stories help remind the air cadets of the purpose behind their work.

Guest speaker Lieut. Samantha Wall started as an air cadet in Innisfail and is now an officer with the Canadian Forces. She credits the cadets for making her a leader. “It took me from being a quiet 12-year-old to learning how to lead people.”

Wall has flown in gliders, rappelled in training exercises and she plays the bagpipes.

“It has been a lot of experiences my friends didn’t get,” she added.

Wall advises the air cadets take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and “run with it…I used to be a afraid of heights, not anymore.”

Wall also feels the Royal Military College of Canada is an avenue of education to consider. It did not cost her anything to attend and gave her skills she would not normally have acquired.

“Leadership is not something that you’re given. It’s something that you take and you own,” she stated.

Legion president Stan Orlesky is proud of the air cadets and said the legion has been a supporter of the dinner since it started. “It’s a great organization, we’re proud to have them as partners.”

Orlesky presented a cheque to the air cadets for $5,699.24 from a recent casino and from the Poppy Fund.

There were three other presentations during the dinner; cadets Amber Koster and Catlin Huseby have become too old for the group and received gifts of thanks from the air cadets,.

Huseby also received the Canadian Cadet Medal of Excellence for work last year. The award was intended for Huseby last year but Orlesky said the medal was lost and it took an entire year before he could acquire another one.

“I’ve spent the entire year looking forward to it,” joked Huseby.

There were some pranks during the evening and mess committee president Nicholson was responsible to keep track of her gavel and if lost had to had to perform a task to get it back. She sang Row Your Boat with another cadet and was able to gain control of the gavel again.