Ernie Peaker with a photograph of himself when he first joined the Navy at age 17. - Cloe Logan photo

Ernie Peaker with a photograph of himself when he first joined the Navy at age 17. - Cloe Logan photo

Parksville man disheartened by notes on windshield saying he’s not a ‘real’ veteran

Anonymous messages at golf course said he should be ‘ashamed’ of special licence plates

Ernie Peaker joined the Canadian Navy in 1969 and spent 34 years serving — often at his base in Esquimalt, but also as far away as Cambodia.

So, when Peaker saw a note on his windshield admonishing him for his veteran licence plates this summer in Parksville, he felt disheartened.

“Well I was at my golf course and I finished playing golf… I noticed there was a piece of paper on the windshield and it wasn’t very nice,” he said. “Basically it said you should be ashamed for displaying these plates, you’re taking away from real veterans.”

It happened not once, but twice, at the golf course.

“Now I just take take the notes and put them in the garbage, I don’t think twice about it,” he said. “I’m quite comfortable about being a veteran.”

It’s part of a misconception, Peaker said, that veterans who served when he did didn’t see real violence — that they’re not “real” veterans. Peaker said not only did he experience traumatic things while in the Navy, but he had to spend a lot of time away — sometimes 200 days at sea a year, “especially in the early days.”

“You know some people think because you had been in the service for a period of time, but had never seen action, that you’re not a real veteran,” he said, while sitting at his kitchen table wearing a shirt with “Navy Marine” embroidered in yellow thread. “There’s veterans that never stepped outside of Canada and have never been put in harm’s way and they deserve the same respect because they served and they were ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

READ MORE: Meet the B.C. veteran who helped fight to recognize Remembrance Day

Peaker joined the Navy when he was just 17 years old. While looking at a photo of himself taken at the beginning of his service, he can’t help but laugh while looking at how young he looks.

“Still a kid, just hardly shaving,” he said.

In more than three decades of time spent serving in the Navy, Peaker went around the world several times. He was awarded the Order of Military Merit by the Governor-General, a Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal and other accolades for his service.

“I’ve served with the United Nations in Cambodia in 1992 for six months and in 2001, after 9/11, we were the first Canadian warship from Vancouver to go to the gulf with the American battle group,” Peaker said. “We spent seven and a half months over there.”

Peaker points to his time in Cambodia as something that stands out for him.

“We were the United Nations transitional authority in Cambodia after they ousted Pol Pot,” he said, referencing the Prime Minister responsible for the Cambodian genocide, which killed an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million people. “The things I saw over there, no body should have to see, the atrocities, it’s still in my mind.”

Still, when Peaker looks back at his storied career, he feels grateful to have had so much of his life spent in the Navy.

“I never had any bad days in the Navy, just some were better than others,” he said. “I say to my buddies, if we had two Navys, I would have moonlighted in the second.”

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read