Lacombe resident Vernon Dool joined the Canadian Navy in 1954 after a he and a friend decided they didn’t want to work in the rain on the original Trans Mountain Pipeline.
It wasn’t odd, according to Dool, that a couple prairie boys were joining the Navy.
“I would say 75 per cent of the guys I knew in the Navy were the Prairies. You wouldn’t see too many from the coast. Nobody seemed to know why,” he said.
Dool, who become a marine engineer and served until 1974, would head towards the west coast just as the Canadian Armed Forces were pulling out of the Korean war.
”I went to a frigate and they were training officer cadets in navigation. I then went from the frigate to to a tribal-class destroyer,” he said. “In January, we would go to Hawaii and do exercises with India, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the Americans. Then we would go up and patrol the Bering Sea. “
During his time on patrol up north, Dool’s roles included looking after steam, diesel, the air conditioning and refrigeration.
“We had planned maintenance, so you had a breakdown and had to check everything off,” he said.
Much of what Dool learned came directly from Second World War veterans.
“Most of the officers were Second World War veterans. They started getting out and the younger ones came in,” he said. “Most of the chief engineers were all Second World War veterans. I learned from them my trade as a marine engineer.”
Dool said everyone always new that patrolling the Bering Sea was about watching for U.S.S.R activity in the arctic.
“That was the reason we were up there. They had all these factory ships apparently hunting whale, but they had all this radio equipment — they were up there spying. We were up there keeping an eye on them,” he said.
Dool added they would often send people ashore to see if the Soviets were encroaching on Canadian territory.
“Periodically, we would send a party to shore to check for Russian cigarette packages,” he said.
Astonishingly, Dool said the destroyer would even take part with American and Soviet ships in war games — something that was not publicized to the general public.
Near the end of his tour with the Navy, Dool would head south to Southeast Asia after the end of the Viet Nam War.
“If anything happened to our peacekeepers, we were on patrol to get them out of there,” he said regarding the Canadian peacekeepers that were sent into the region after the Americans pulled out of the war.
Dool said Canadians are doing a good job of honouring the legacy of veterans and feel it is important to commemorate the day, “For all the people that lost their lives protecting not only Canada, but other countries.
“I always like to go to the Legion and go to the LMC for the service,” he said, adding he was happy to share his story with Veterans Voices of Canada.
Dool still resides in Lacombe but still thinks about his time on the ocean with the Navy.
“I love the sea. My wife and I used to take two cruises every year,” he said.