They serve with honour. Some die in the line of duty. Some return home broken in body and spirit. Some, who never leave these shores witness society’s tragedies and suffer unseen wounds. Honour House was built to help these worthy Canadians heal, along with their families, in their time of need.
Retired army reservist and one of the founding directors, John Appleby says, “The need became apparent when Capt. Trevor Greene, an officer in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, a Vancouver reserve infantry unit, was seriously wounded in Afghanistan.
In the process of a long recovery where he was moved from hospital to hospital across the country, there was no support available for his family. That deficiency was first recognized in mid-2006 by Lt. Col (ret) Victor Coroy, the president of the Royal United Services Institute of Vancouver. The institute sponsored a benefit concert, in support of the BC Mainland Military Family Resource Centre, titled, “Salute to Our Troops in Afghanistan.”
“This event focused attention on the needs of our troops - both those serving overseas, and those returning home. In particular, it helped raise awareness about injured or wounded Canadian Forces members receiving care or rehabilitation in the Metro-Vancouver area medical facilities; and the difficulty they and their families have in finding temporary housing during such times of need.”
Canadian troops have served in Afghanistan since 2002, with more than 35,000 completing at least one tour of duty. More than 150 Canadians have been killed and over 4,500 have been injured.
A similar situation is faced by families of first responders - fire, law enforcement and ambulance personnel - who are injured in the line of duty or suffer from psychological issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Senior vet Arthur Hughes takes comfort in knowing that today’s wounded have better conditions for healing physical injures, however, he says, “While the war may be over, conditions like PTSD without medical intervention, family support, and places like Honour House, may last a lifetime.”
In April 2009, Don Vandervoort, a retired Seaforth Highlander and current chairman of the Life Members of the Vancouver Construction Association was approached and asked if he and other Life members would be interested in working with the society.
“After assuring then-President Keith Sashaw that I would head up the project, it was presented to the Life members and board of directors, who unanimously approved it as a way to put something back into the community,” says Don. “We estimated the cost of construction at approximately $1,800,000. My job was to try and have as much of the work donated by in-kind donations of materials and or labour. To date, we have been successful in collecting $1.25 million of the total cost. I donated my time for 28 months of attending weekly site progress meetings, various promotion meetings and social functions.”
Over the years, a society was formed, funds raised, a building purchased and a major reconstruction project undertaken. Community support for the project was massive. Among those supporters were the provincial government, through BC Housing, a major supporter of the construction phase, the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) Local 60 (Shaw Cablesystems), and the BC/Yukon Command Royal Canadian Legion, who generously presented Honour House Society with a cheque for $17,666.95.
Unfortunately, Veterans Affairs Canada and the federal government have yet to contribute any funding, even though the board of directors and many of the volunteers are vets.
Since its 2010 opening, 53 members have used the facilities provided at Honour House. Guests are referred by support organizations, which include the Military Family Support Centres, Legion Service Officers, Regimental Associations, First Responder Employers or Unions.
Creating the Flag
Arthur followed four principles for creating the Honour House flag:
1. It must be recognizable from a distance.
2. It must look the same on both sides.
3. It must be easy to draw.
4. It must not have any writing on it.
With these principles in mind, Arthur took up the challenge.
His design is classic in its simplicity and is heraldically correct.
The white background speaks to the role of medical personnel in times of emergency. The red maple leaf symbolizes Canada and the white letter H superimposed on the maple leaf identifies Honour House.
The dark blue horizontal bar represents the navy, the red in the middle the army and the light blue the air force. The gold lines symbolize all first responders - fire, ambulance and law enforcement.
Donations or volunteer opportunities may be arranged through www.honourhouse.ca
NOVEMBER 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND