A long overdue ceremony, full of First Nations tradition and military protocols, was held in the Wardroom at CFB Esquimalt on Thursday July 29, 2004.
Rear-Admiral Jean-Yves Forcier hosted an event to present three medals to Mrs. Frances Memnook, being honoured by the Canadian Forces with the Memorial Cross in recognition of her late husband, Leading Seaman (LS) Ned Memnook. He passed away with a sudden illness while deployed on a peacekeeping mission in support of the Vietnam war in 1973.
The Special Service Medal (with peace bar) and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal were awarded posthumously to LS Memnook. The Millennium medal was presented by the Vancouver Island chapter of the National Aboriginal Veterans Aassociation.
John Christopher Lucas of the Hesquiaht First Nation, and brother-in-law of LS Memnook offered opening prayers. The event, was rich in traditional Aboriginal spiritual rituals, including smudging to show respect for the spirit of LS Memnook, who was a member of the Saddle Lake First Nation, near St. Paul, Alberta. His wife, Frances Memnook is a member of the Hesquiaht First Nation, near Tofino, BC.
Songs, including an Honour Song, were featured by the Yellow Wolf Drum Group.
Chief Andy Thomas of the Esquimalt First Nation, welcomed members of the Memnook family, friends, and the more than 60 people who had gathered for the unique ceremony. His words included gratitude for the event that was long overdue, but also mindful of the distance First Nations people must still travel to regain their rights, and recognition. He reminded the audience that most First Nations people in Canada, continue to be dictated by the Indian Act, and that means they are wards of the Crown.
Chief Thomas' statements did not fall on deaf ears. First Nations people there, easily identified. As well, those listening included Dr Keith Martin, recently appointed to Prime Minister Paul Martin's Cabinet as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.
Also there . . . members of the Vancouver Island National Aboriginal Veterans Association, the Canadian UN Peacekeepers Veterans association, retired Captain (Navy) Larry Dzioba (the Commanding Officer of HMCS TERRA NOVA at the time of L.S. Memnook's death), members of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group and other senior military officials. Mrs. Memnook was supported by her daughter Carolyn, son Conrad, sister Rita, brother John Christopher, and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Guests of honour also included LS Memnook's sister, Shirley Memnook, cousin Lina Cardinal and her niece Nancy Cardinal, who came from Saddle Lake and Cold Lake First Nations in Alberta.
31 years passed before Ned Memnook was honoured for his military service. The combined efforts of Aboriginal veterans assisting the Canadian Forces to address the backlog in the system, and locating family ties, lead to this week's ceremony.
DND's MC of the event at CFB Esquimalt explained, "It has been a mystery on why it has taken 31 years to present the family with these medals. While two of the medals were not in circulation in 1973, the Memorial Cross should have been presented to Mrs. Frances Memnook at that time. Some light suggests that when Mrs. Memnook moved to Sooke and reverted to her Hesquiat First Nation's administration, the CF lost touch with her. Luckily, that changed with the efforts being made to track down all outstanding medal recipients. All at once, Mrs. Memnook was being contacted by our National Headquarters people, the NAVA and Peacekeepers Veterans groups and this Formation!"
Ned was born in St. Paul, Alberta to parents Oliver Memnook and Rita Memnook nee Half. He was a member of the Saddle Lake First Nation. He was preceded by his mother Rita in childhood. Ned had three siblings that were Richard, Simon, and Shirley. Both brothers departed after Ned's passing as well as his father Oliver. His loving sister remains and resides in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Upon Ned's arrival to Victoria BC, he met, fell in love and married Frances Lucas. He quickly adapted to life on the west coast and had many friends within the local native community. He was welcomed into Frances's family and enjoyed a life with his wife as well as her children Conrad and Linda Lucas. He left behind wife, children and daughter Carolyn born December 1969.
He was best known for his love of the world, cooking, curiosity, time spent with those he loved, culture and creativity. He enjoyed his many experiences while traveling with the Navy. He was passionate to learn new things and fulfilled his dearest wish to see the world and all that it entailed. He was deeply committed to his family and his work and was always generous to share a smile.
Sadly and suddenly, Ned passed away on 15 March 1973 while serving at sea on the HMCS Terra Nova in support of the International Commissions of Control and Supervision mission for Vietnam.
"May the stars carry your sadness away, may the flowers fill your heart with beauty, may hope forever wipe away your tears, and, above all, may silence make you strong."
~Chief Dan George
The Special Service Medal - The SSM recognizes members of the Canadian Forces who have performed a service determined to be under exceptional circumstances, in a clearly defined locality for a specified duration. The role of HMCS TERRA NOVA in support of activities in Vietnam warrants the award of this medal. In this case the medal comes with the peace bar.
Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal - The CPSM will recognize service by Canadians deployed outside Canada for a minimum of 30 days (not necessarily consecutively) either on the strength of a unit of the Canadian Forces deployed on a peacekeeping or observer mission, or in direct support of any such mission. The role of HMCS TERRA NOVA in support of activities in Vietnam warrants the award of this medal. Memorial Cross - Awarded to the mother and widow of any member of the Armed Forces of Canada who loses his life on active service, including peacekeeping and other such international operations.
Aboriginal Commemorative Millennium Medal - This medallion is a project of the National Aboriginal Veterans Association (NAVA), along with the support of the Canadian Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. The medal will be awarded to aboriginal men and women who served in the Canadian Forces, US Forces, Merchant Navy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Peace-time Services, and deceased aboriginal veterans. NAVA is hoping to ensure that men and women of good faith throughout Canada can be rewarded for their personal struggles for freedom and democracy. The memory of all Canada's veterans must live on through our future generations. Their courage must not be forgotten.
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