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Veteran Tom White medals (L-R) Special Service Medal-2 Bars, Canadian Peace Service Medal, United Nations Emergency Force 1, United Nations Truce Supervision - Palestine, United Nations- Congo, Queen's Silver Jubilee, Canada 125th Birthday, Queen's Golden Jubilee, Canadian Decoration- 2 Bars, and (bottom) Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation , taken 9 November 2010. (Paul Darrow for The Globe an Mail/Paul Darrow for The Globe an Mail)
Veteran Tom White medals (L-R) Special Service Medal-2 Bars, Canadian Peace Service Medal, United Nations Emergency Force 1, United Nations Truce Supervision - Palestine, United Nations- Congo, Queen's Silver Jubilee, Canada 125th Birthday, Queen's Golden Jubilee, Canadian Decoration- 2 Bars, and (bottom) Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation , taken 9 November 2010. (Paul Darrow for The Globe an Mail/Paul Darrow for The Globe an Mail)

Veterans

Behind every military medal, a story Add to ...

We see them every Nov. 11: A confetti of striking colours emblazoned across veterans' chests as we honour those who fought for Canada's freedom and the freedom of others.

From ‘freebies' shared with civilians to those awarded for having the courage to serve in the trenches, from honours for maintaining tenuous peace in war-torn regions to those for tours of duty in some of the world's most forbidding areas. They belong to Canada's warriors. To Canada's peacekeepers.

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And they reveal the secrets of battles fought, of trials and tribulations persevered, of sacrifices made in the shaping of our nation and in helping it claim its spot on the world stage. Here are the tales behind the decorations.

Veteran Tom Hoppe is seen outside of his home in Kingston, Ontario on November 6, 2010.

Tom Hoppe, 43

Sergeant, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, Kingston

“I had no intention of getting medals. There are always trophy hunters, that's human nature. Maybe to some, a medal is a trophy. To me, it's not. I didn't say. ‘I'm going to be a hero.' There's something to do. You get it done.”

Tom Hoppe's medals are seen left to right in his home on November 6, 2010: Meritorious Service Cross, given for leadership and bravery under fire during 1993 Bosnian tour; Medal of Bravery, for rescuing three kids trapped under sniper fire during the 1993 Bosnian tour; Special Service Medal, for NATO tour in Europe 1985-1990; Peace Keeping Medal, given to all soliders who serviced on a peace keeping tour; United Nations Protection Force Medal, 1993 Bosnia; Canadian Forces Decoration, for 12 years of good service

1. Meritorious Service Cross

“Bosnia, 1993. They called it a peacekeeping mission, but I totally disagree with that term. It was a full-out war. The term peacekeeping is a myth. … I worked in a patrol of eight guys. We were involved in a number of incidents, a number of firefights. The medal is just not for me, its for the eight guys, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do what I had to do. It’s for leadership.”

2. Medal of Bravery

‘Three or four kids were under sniper fire [in Visoko, outside Sarajevo.]I went out with another guy and pulled them out. The Meritorious Service medal and Medal of Bravery were both given for the same tour. At that time – it’s since changed – that made me the most decorated Canadian soldier since Korea.”

3. Special Service Medal

“For serving in NATO in Germany. You get it for serving 30 days in theatre. I was there for five years.”

4. The Peacekeeping Service Medal

“Everybody got this. It’s for being on a peacekeeping tour. For peacekeeping anywhere in the world.

“Peacekeeping – this big myth that we go over and hand out flowers and build schools. That’s part of it, but you can’t do that until there’s peace. Peacekeeping is war. We put this perception in people’s minds that it’s safer.”

5. United Nations Peacekeeping Protection Force Medal

“This was specific for peacekeeping in Bosnia. Sarajevo was just blown to crap. I sat on a hill overlooking the old ski jump from the Olympics and parts of the city, watching it constantly shelled.”

6. The Canadian Forces Decoration

“This is for 12 years of good service. Nothing special. If you get some jail time, you’re not going to get it. I did my job.”

WWII Vet Andrew Bogle who is now 86 years old and lives in Calgary, AB. Born in Scotland he arrived in Canada with his parents in 1927. He enlisted with the Navy in Winnipeg in February 1943 and served 32 months on the H.M.C.S.Nene, a British Frigate with Canadian Crew. He was photographed in Calgary on Friday, November 05, 2010.

Andrew Bogle, 86

Seaman, Royal Canadian Navy, Calgary

“A lot of people don't know what medals mean. Kids look at the medal, and say, ‘Oh, look at the colours!’ They like that, but it doesn't mean much to them. I don't feel bad. They don't know any better. I think they should. It's part of our history.”

World War II and more recent medals belonging to WWII vet Andrew Bogle who is now 86 years old and lives in Calgary, AB. Left to right : 1.3945 Star 2.) The France-Germany Star 3.) The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal 4.) The 1939-45 War Medal 5) The Police Exemplary Service Medal 6) The Alberta Centennial Medal

1. The '39-'45 Star

“Being a star, it's a nice medal. It's a campaign medal.”

2. The France-Germany Star

“We used to escort troops and supplies across from Britain [to]France. I was a helmsman, steering the ship, There were enemy submarines. I saw the SS Cuba get sunk. It was an Allied troop ship, I think it was French. It was torpedoed and going down by the stern, 250 crew, only two were killed. We picked up survivors. There was always a chance of being sunk ourselves, as the sub was still there. You were so busy picking up survivors, you don't think of the danger so much. It could have been me.”

3. Volunteer Service Medal

“It was issued to Canadians who were in the service, but if you were overseas, there is a little bar with a maple leaf on it that tells people you were overseas.”

4. The War Medal

“Everybody got that. If you were in the war, you got it. We escorted convoys in the North Atlantic. Oh, I remember the cold, the wet, the fog, the ice. I saw 30- and 40 -foot waves on the North Atlantic. I've not seen that anyplace else.”

5. The Russian Medal

“For being up in the Arctic during the war. It was issued by the British Navy. It was sent to me in the mail. Canadians have never issued one. It doesn't matter. I have the Arctic Star from the Russians and that's enough.”

6. The Arctic Star

“Murmansk and Archangel are up in the Arctic. In Russia. Not a lot of Canadians went to Russia. During the war, we escorted supply ships. Picked up the convoys in Scapa Flow in Scotland and escorted them to Russia. North of the Arctic Circle. If you were torpedoed. we were told, you had about two minutes to live in the water, it was so cold. … The medal was issued by the Russians. We had to submit our names to the Legion and they were sent to the Russian embassy. In 1977, the Russian ambassador came out west, came to the North Calgary Legion 264 and pinned it on my chest. We had a ship's crew reunion in Ottawa in '89. And we were asked to go to the Russian embassy for afternoon tea. We never did get anything from the Canadians. I kind of thought we should.”

Veteran Tom White salutes outside of the Royal Canadian Legion in New Waterford, NS, 9 November 2010. Mr White served in the Royal Canadian Signals and Military Engineers in both the regular and reserve army from 1952 to 1991. He served in Europe, Middle East, Congo and high Arctic. He was on loan to the German army , Royal Engineers 24 FD Squadron and the U.S. Air National Guard. He is a national founding member of C.A.V.U.N.P and PASS, Nova Scotia. Director and a member of the Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Committee, he was NCO I/C of the honour guard for the 1983 visit to Nova Scotia by their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. Thomas is married to the former Jeanette MacNevin of Scotchtown, have three sons an eight grand children.

Tom White, 74

NATO Signal Corps, Egypt and Palestine 56th Canadian Signal Unit, Congo 57th Canadian Signal Unit, New Victoria, N.S.

“I'm proudest of the Canadian Peace Service Medal. Nobody ever counts the lives that are saved in a peacekeeping mission. We had people killed in Palestine. We had IED and mines and accidents. We made boxes to bury these guys in out of crates.”

Veteran Tom White medals (L-R) Special Service Medal-2 Bars, Canadian Peace Service Medal, United Nations Emergency Force 1, United Nations Truce Supervision - Palestine, United Nations- Congo, Queen's Silver Jubilee, Canada 125th Birthday, Queen's Golden Jubilee, Canadian Decoration- 2 Bars, and (bottom) Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation , taken 9 November 2010.

1. Special Service Medal with NATO Bar

“I have one bar on it for NATO [Europe]and one bar on it for Alert, which is up in Ellesmere Island. I was a construction engineer; rigging steel, putting up a new hangar. Cold! It goes down to about 45 below there. It’s dark for six months and bright for four. Alert is the hardest on a person. You’re in isolation. You sleep and eat and work. What else can you do when it’s so cold?

“A bar for Europe – Germany with two infantry brigades. It’s a lovely place. Canadians were there for 30 or 40 years and it was one of the best postings a Canadian could have.”

2. Canadian Peace Service Medal

“For doing a UN tour. In addition to a campaign medal for where you’re at.”

3. United Nations Emergency Force Medal (Suez Campaign)

“We were living in tents in the desert as part of a communications squadron. An encampment about the size of my back yard. Nothing like what they got now. I was on guard duty, and a Palestinian broke in and was stealing cameras. I apprehended him, took him prisoner. He began to run away and I had to make a call – shoot him or stab him. I stuck him with my bayonet. He was in hospital for three weeks. Alive today, as far as I know.”

4. UNTSO Medal (Palestine Campaign)

“I’m not anti anything. You go out in the morning in your jeep, the Arabs are waving at you, smiling. By noon, they were stoning you! By suppertime, they’re waving again. The Arabs seemed to change their mind [with]whatever they hear on the news that day.”

5. UNTSO Medal (Congo Campaign)

“I was a signal corps dispatch rider in the Congo. One night, I made a mistake. I was out 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and I got ambushed. I got beat up. By the natives. Congolese rebels, eh. I was knocked unconscious. Irish troops found me and took me to an Indian field hospital. I’m deaf in one ear since then. I just got the Congo medal.”

6. Queens Golden Jubilee Medal

“We call these [last three]‘freebies.’ It depends on what your job is. I was director of the peacekeeping association. Somebody, in their wisdom, wrote a letter and said, ‘Tom deserves one of them. He’s working for the veterans.’ Any medal in the military that the civilians and the military get, we call ‘freebies.’

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