One of Canada's oldest naval vets honored today
Published Tuesday, November 11, 2014 4:06PM EST Last Updated Tuesday, November 11, 2014 7:03PM EST
One of Canada's oldest naval veterans was the guest of honor at the National War Museum in Ottawa today. It was a memorable day for Chief Petty Officer Ernest Sergeant for another reason as well. He was reunited with his 3 sons for the first time in decades. At 93-years-old, Ernest Sargeant may not be fast on his feet anymore but he is as quick with Morse code as he was decades ago.
‘Oh yeah, that’s my second language,’ he jokes.
Sargeant was just 17 years old in 1938; a teenager from Winnipeg when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy. When war broke out, Sargeant was assigned to the HMCS Kenogami, part of a convoy of Canadian Corvettes escorting ships across the ocean that were carrying supplies and troops. He even escorted the Queen Mother at one point. Sargeant was a radio operator on board.
‘I copied Morse code, Morse code and more Morse code,’ he says.
The Corvettes played a critical role in the Battle of the Atlantic; an accomplishment that Sargeant's sons are so proud of.
‘It’s a day about my dad,’ says son John Sargeant, ‘celebrating the accomplishments and what he did for our country.’
‘My father devoted his life to the military,’ adds son Kim Sargeant, ‘and I just feel very proud to be here.’
In fact, it is the first time in forty-seven years that father and sons have been together. Ernest Sargeant spent 25 years in the Navy, then went on to a second career with NATO in Belgium after he retired. His sons moved to British Columbia.
‘We’ve always communicated, we always talked,’ adds son Warren Sargeant, ‘it just wasn't the visiting part that happened and now it is happening.’
And so, with his sons at his side, Chief Petty Officer Ernest Sargeant waited and watched in silence as a stream of sunlight framed the headstone inside the Canadian War Museum's Memorial Hall. He appeared lost in memories; the pain of the past too difficult to call to the surface.
‘It is,’ he explained, ‘there's a few friends that I miss, that I lost during the war.’
This is an honor that Ernest Sargeant cherishes as one of the last of the naval vets left from World War Two. He has suffered a series of strokes in the last few days. Still, his thoughts are on the past and the future; next Remembrance Day.
“Maybe I can do it again,’ he says about his visit to the War Museum, ‘who knows.’