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Central Alberta veteran reflects on 25-year career ahead of Remembrance Day

Every day is Remembrance Day for central Alberta veteran Darryl Lickers.
Darryl Lickers, 73, served 25 years with the Canadian military. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Every day is Remembrance Day for central Alberta veteran Darryl Lickers.

“We carry a lot of stuff that’s burned into our memory banks. Some nights are restless, especially around this time of year when a lot of that stuff comes flooding back,” said the 73-year-old Blackfalds resident, who had a 25-year career in the military.

Originally from the Six Nations of Grand River Mohawk Territory in southwestern Ontario, Lickers began his infantry basic training in Calgary in 1965.

Serving in the military is “kind of a family tradition,” he explained.

“My grandfather on my mother’s side served, my uncles served, my late brother served. I always wanted to be a soldier. When you talk about living out your dreams, I actually got to do that,” he said.

His career took him to various locations within Canada and overseas, including a stint in Germany from 1967-70 and three peacekeeping tours in Cyprus.

His third tour in Cyprus, which was with the Canadian Airborne Regiment, was a particularly memorable experience for Lickers.

“At that time, Turkish forces had invaded the island. We were caught in the middle of war between the Turks and the Greeks for control of the island,” Lickers recalled.

“We had people wounded, people killed. … Each time you do those missions, you never know what one side is going so you’re always on your toes.”

When Lickers returned to Canada, he turned to the cook trade. He served as a military cook for the last portion of his 25-year military career. The final stop of his career was CFB Penhold.

“There are times where I’ve thought I should’ve stayed longer. I had an opportunity to go back to the Airborne when I was in Penhold, but I didn’t really want to do that, which is why I retired,” he said.

“Had I gone back to the Airborne, I would’ve been there when they went to Somalia. I kind of missed out on that. I kind of missed out on the Oka Crisis (in Quebec).”

Lickers became a corrections officer in the early 1990s. He retired from Corrections Canada in 2015 following a 23-year career.

Though his career in corrections lasted nearly the same length as his career in the military, Lickers said he still views himself as a soldier.

“Once a solider, always a solider. We have that bond. There’s that camaraderie and that bond,” he said.

“If I could go tomorrow and soldier again, I would wholeheartedly. I miss it. There are times that I sit back and say, ‘I wish I was younger and could go back.’”

Remembrance Day is the one day of the year Lickers gets to “soldier on again,” he said.

“I was proud of the time that I served. We were the cold war veterans and I think people need to recognize us as well. We are slowly becoming the old veterans when you think of it. The new veterans are those who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Gulf War.”

Lickers said he wants people to honour the fallen and veterans who are still struggling year-round.

“After Remembrance Day, if people could go away with any one thought, it would be that we remember every day, not just once a year,” he said.

He added people should remember veterans who have died on home soil as a result of their experience and veterans currently living on the streets, in addition to the 128,000 men and women who have been killed or lost in action.

To this day, Lickers carries the Eagle Staff at various events in central Alberta – he was recently the Eagle Staff carrier at the Powwow Times International Gathering at Westerner Park’s Peavey Mart Centrium.

Lickers said he’s proud to be an Indigenous veteran.

“There were 300 (Indigenous people) who died in the First World War and 200 who died in the Second World War,” he said.

This past Tuesday was Indigenous Veterans Day. On this day the provincial government recognized the generations of Indigenous people who served and continue to serve Canada with courage in war and peacekeeping efforts.

“For more than 200 years, thousands of Indigenous people bravely dedicated their lives to service,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.

“Indigenous service people have continued to be an inspiration in modern times – from serving in European operations during the Cold War to working as army reservists in Canada’s north and in disaster relief and peacekeeping operations around the world.

“Many Indigenous veterans lost their lives and others continue to serve in times of war and peace despite many facing racism back at home.”

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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