Ben Villeneuve leading the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76. (PQB News file photo)

Ben Villeneuve leading the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76. (PQB News file photo)

Decision to join military in 1965 was a good one for Qualicum Beach veteran

‘I’ve never looked back after that’ says Villeneuve about joining army

Ben Villenueve was 17 years old when he and a friend decided to join the Canadian Army.

Villeneuve said they signed up in 1965 since they both did not like the part-time job they were in at the time. But sadly for his friend, Villeneuve was the only one that got recruited.

“We joked about going in the army,” said Villeneuve. “It was his idea so it was quite funny actually that I made it and he didn’t. But we still remained good friends through most of our life.”

Villenueve was still in high school, just about to enter Grade 12 when he made the military the foundation of his future career. It was a decision he said he never regretted as it was in the military where he gained a profession that he later applied in civilian life when his military career was over.

“I’ve never looked back after that,” said Villeneuve. “I have never, ever said it was a bad mistake. It ended up being a benefit. I took university courses, learned a trade and did a lot of different things.”

Villeneuve attended basic military training at Petawawa, Ont. and he said it was an eye-opener.

“I thought I was physically fit until I hit the army basic training,” Villeneuve quipped. “I found out I wasn’t quite so physically fit because they would make me better.”

READ MORE: British Armed Forces veterans both retire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

While in the army, Villenueve attended trade school and joined the military police. Throughout his time in the army, he was assigned at different military bases in Ontario and Alberta. He also spent some time in Cyprus to be part a peacekeeping mission there in 1971.

“It was different in Cyprus,” said Villenueve. “We patrolled the green line areas between the Greeks and the Turks who still had animosity against each other.”

He still takes pride to being in the Canadian Army.

“I was proud to serve my country in any way I could,” said Villenueve.

“I suppose, once I got in the army and went to different places. seen so many things and spoke to many veterans, your perspective on the world changes somewhat because you see things.

“When you go to Cyprus, the Greeks and the Turks both have museums of barbarism where they say these are the atrocities the Greeks did against us and the Turks did the same thing. You look at those things and say ‘really?’. You live on a beautiful island and you can’t live together. You wonder why the conflict is there but it’s always there. It just makes you realize that the world is bigger than your hometown. As a Canadian you have a role that your government has asked the military to do. And that’s what we do for them.”

Canada has earned the reputation as an international peacekeeper. Villenueve said it took years of hard work and sacrifice made by many soldiers and different military groups to earn the accolades.

“It’s a tradition that we carry on today,” said Villeneuve.

Remembrance Day for Villeneuve is a time to reflect on the many conflicts that led to the loss of human lives that include soldiers and civilians.

“No war was fought where someone was not killed, maimed or injured and I am not talking about physically. I talking about but mentally,” said Villeneuve.

“The mental things that people see in these countries are forever. My grandfather, when I told him I joined the army he drove into town to congratulate me and buy me lunch because he was in the army. But he didn’t talk about the war. My dad didn’t talk about it. So there’s a tendency to keep it inside. Which is actually the wrong thing to do. You have to talk about it.”

After serving in the military, Villenueve applied his peacekeeping skills with police in Alberta, where he served for 27 years.

Villeneuve, who is 71 years old, is an active member of the Qualicum Beach Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76 in finding ways to help veterans in the region.

“Every little bit helps,” said Villeneuve. “Whatever we can do to make their journey easier, we have to do. Our mandate is to look after veterans and that’s what we do.”

Villenueve is a member of the RCL Branch 76 committee that deals with homeless veterans.

“There are homeless vets and whatever we can do to help, that’s our job,” said Villenueve. “It touches a nerve but we do what we can.”

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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