How Does One Attempt to Make a Difference? November 11, 2016
November 21, 2016
OTTAWA: I receive many, many emails from my constituents. There is one I found very moving and I want to share it with all of you. This email was from John Myslicki, a resident of Niton Junction. It was sent to me on November 14, right after Remembrance Day.
“This is what I have done over the past dozen years to show appreciation to our vets and soldiers.
In 2002, four of our soldiers died in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, and their memorial service was held in a completely packed hockey arena known as SkyReach, and eventually as Rexall Coliseum. I did not attend that service, but I watched it on TV, and was very moved by the support of those in attendance. It was at that time I resolved to show our military families that I also appreciated what they were doing for Canada.
It started out with wallet calendars. One side had a full year calendar, and on the back was this message. “We Salute Canadian Military Personnel and Your Families for the significant contribution you make towards our safety, at home and abroad. We also acknowledge the personal sacrifices made by you and your family members. We Appreciate All That You Do! Take Care and God Bless! John, Marg and Lanny Myslicki, Niton Junction, Alberta.” I ordered 2000 initially and took them to the MFRC (Military Family Resource Centre) at Edmonton Garrison, and asked if these could be sent to the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. The reaction of the staff was so positive that I ordered another 10,000 calendars. I contacted every MFRC across Canada to find out if they would accept and hand these out. I found takers for all 10,000, and mailed them out. Then, to my surprise, I received a very nice letter from Kandahar, Afghanistan, explaining how well received the wallet calendars were by the soldiers on the base, especially since there was not stationery store locally where such an item was available.
The following few years, I continued to order 10,000 wallet calendars for distribution to MFRCs and to our overseas bases. In addition, knowing how well our “Winners Are People Like You” pens were being received by customers and other locals, I searched through the pen designs and came upon a white pen with a Canadian Maple Leaf Flag imprinted on the barrel. We added a message of support and thanks to our military. My first order was for 3,000 pens. Because I had been bringing the wallet calendars to Edmonton Garrison MFRC, I received an email invitation to attend the July 1 celebration at Edmonton Garrison.
I arrived early at Edmonton Garrison, so I decided to walk around the PMQs (Private Military Quarters), knocked on doors, and handed out pens, thanking the families for being in the military and serving. I have to say that there were many surprised people that morning, but no one was more surprised than I was, when I heard someone holler and asked me to stop. He was a husky man, and I thought I was in trouble for going house to house on the base. The soldier put out his hand, shook mine very hard, and with tears in his eyes, said, “Thank you for giving the pens to my wife. No one has ever done this before, and I thank you for this very kind gesture. It is so nice to see that we have your support. Bless you!” Melt my heart? Yes he did. I had many similar comments from soldiers and their families when I handed out more pens at the base celebrations that afternoon.
I took more pens to Edmonton MFRC to send to our troops in Afghanistan in 2005, but by then the regulations had changed, and any parcels had to be delivered to a particular soldier stationed there. It was right around that time that I read an Edmonton Journal article about a reservist who was serving in Kandahar, complete with her regiment number. Aha! I mailed a box of 750 pens to her, asking her to hand these out to our soldiers at Kandahar. In return, I received a very nice letter of thanks.
On Christmas Day of 2005, our phone rang, and I expected it to be family. The voice on the other end said, “You don’t know me, but I was writing with your pen while I was serving in Afghanistan. I just wanted to call and let you know how much we appreciate what you are doing for us.” We chatted a bit, and then, it was done. What a beautiful Christmas message!
Fast forward to August of 2006. Our community was devastated by the news that Master Corporal Raymond Arndt, from Peers, was killed in action in Afghanistan. The war had come home! I attended Ray’s service in Edson, and handed out our Support pens to the soldiers who had come by the bus load to attend Ray’s service. There was a group of soldiers visiting by the entrance of the Edson Legion, so I started handing out pens, thanking them for their service. One lady soldier, who was squatting down said, “No thanks, I already have a few of your pens.”
I looked closely at her, then asked, “Are you the one who got my box of pens in Kandahar?” With her positive reply, and sincere thanks, I knew that I was slowly making a difference. A couple weeks later, Edmonton Garrison hosted a military personnel only service for Master Corporal Ray Arndt and five other soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the past month. Since I was handing out Support pens, no one stopped me from entering the hangar for the service.
In 2010, I decided to broaden my support, and started attending the Remembrance Day services at the Butterdome on the University of Alberta campus…… my alma mater. My goal each year was to hand out between 750 and 1000 pens, each with a handshake and “Thank You for your service.” Only once was I asked to leave the parade floor, and go sit with the audience. No big deal to me, since the service was about to start, and I would hand out more pens after the service.
As the years went by, more and more soldiers, vets and their families began to recognize me. Some would say, “I wondered if you were going to be here again.” Three years ago, I handed a pen to one soldier who was standing on his own. I walked up, shook his hand, thanked him for his service, and handed him a pen. He looked down at the pen in his hand, looked up at me, looked down at his pen again, and then said, “I always wondered what you looked like. You see, I carried your wallet calendar with me while I was in Afghanistan in 2006.” BAM. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Today, I left home at 7 am to be at the Butter Dome by 9:15. It was a beautiful drive in, almost summer like. As soon as I parked, I started handing out pens to those in uniform, on my way into the Butter Dome.
Following, are a few of the comments I received as I handed out the pens.
Quite a number of soldiers and vets called me by my first name, and welcomed me back to the service.
One soldier told me that she has my pens, from previous years, on display in a glass case in her house.
A soldier thanked me for the pen, and said, “I hope you would be back today. I brought you this (a dark and light green Canadian flag on a key fob), and we would be honoured if you attached this to the zipper on your jacket.”
A rather wobbly WWII vet stood up, shook my hand, thanked me for the pen, and said he would use it to write out his cheques. I teased him, and told him I would be watching for my cheque in the mail. He chuckled. “Not for you he said, for my bills!” Still has a good sense of humour.
Today, I also received a hug from Susan Amerongen, from CTV Edmonton (who interviewed me for the two minute clip on “Living by the Golden Rule”), and another from J’lyn Nye, who did an outstanding job as Master of Ceremonies. She thanked me for her yearly supply of pens.
I noticed that a young mom was having difficulty holding up both her children in her arms when the first “march past” was just starting. We were all standing, the 2-3 year old girl was just too heavy for Mom to carry. I crossed the aisle, and offered to hold the girl for her. She quickly agreed, saying that her husband was with the PPCLI who would be marching past, and her daughter wanted to wave to him. No problem. The girl did not make strange, and we had a good little chat while the parade was being held in front of us. If you saw the video I posted earlier, of the final march past, I did get the little girl waving excitedly to her dad as he passed our position.
There were many more comments today, but I would like to finish off with this one. At the end of the service, when I was standing close to the Cenotaph, one of the senior military members approached me, thanked me for his pen, and then said, “Five years ago, I regarded you as a nuisance, when I asked you to sit down. Today, I can say that you are one of us.”
John, thank you for the work you have done for our Veterans and the help you have given to the people of Yellowhead.