By Laura Keil

Valemount resident Ellen Duncan sponsored her cousin’s son Clay Cochrane on a banner this year. Clay recently retired from the military, after serving 30 years in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Duncan got to know a bit about what it was like for Clay and his family when Clay was deployed.

“I learned that when a soldier is going overseas, the first thing they do is take on intense training. And so they’re away from their family for three to six months in training, then they go for their stint overseas, which can be six months to a year and a half or two years. Then when they come home, they just don’t come home and pick up their newspaper, put on their slippers, and enter back into society. They have to debrief the whole time they were over there.”

In other words, the soldier has to prepare themselves mentally before, during, and after deployment and they’re gone from their families for much longer than the actual deployment.

“It’s a huge process,” she said.

She said many are aware Canada sends troops for peacekeeping missions.

“What lots of people don’t realize is that there are still peacekeepers coming home in body bags.”

But not fully understanding the work and the risk is part of why she wanted to honour Clay.

“I have no real understanding of the gifts that they’ve given us by, you know, leaving their family and going and doing things like this.”

She said for her, honouring a veteran is not synonymous with supporting war.

“I’m not fully supporting war, never have,” she said. “But I do appreciate that some people have chosen to do that for a career or were enlisted to do it. And I’m grateful that didn’t have to be me. And I love him.”