A veteran of the Second World War who lives in Red Deer has turned 97.
Retired trooper Tommy Baker’s birthday was celebrated with the help of a parade featuring emergency and military vehicles, and the presentation of a quilt of valour on Saturday at Timberstone Mews.
Born in Pierson, Man., and raised in Calgary, Baker served with the Calgary Tanks regiment, which is now called the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, in Italy and northwest Europe during the war.
In 1943, Baker suffered shrapnel injuries in his right thigh and right shoulder after being blown off his motorcycle by a German anti-tank artillery gun.
“I was 18 or 18 and a half when I was wounded. I’m lucky – I was wounded twice,” Baker said.
Baker said he didn’t know there would be such a large celebration for his birthday.
Sandee Baker, the veteran’s daughter, said she teared up after seeing her father’s smile as he watched the vehicles in the parade pass by.
“It was a spectacular turnout,” she said, adding she’s proud of her father.
“In COVID times, it’s tough to celebrate and this was beyond my wildest dreams.”
Retired Major Patricia Murphy, president of The King’s Own Calgary regiment, kickstarted the birthday celebration.
A vehicle parade was held for a 99-year-old veteran in Calgary, and Murphy knew Baker’s birthday was coming up, so she wanted him to enjoy a procession as well. She contacted members of the Royal Canadian Artillery 78th Field Battery in Red Deer, who then put the event together.
“It’s really, really heartwarming, and I do hope that Tommy feels the love. These guys who came out volunteered. They want to be here and they wanted to honour him and his service,” said Murphy.
Murphy said she hopes younger people look at veterans such as Baker and become more interested in helping others.
“Second World War veterans … went overseas to fight for the liberties of people who they didn’t even know, risking their lives – that’s selflessness.”
Second Lt. Jason Taylor, with the 78th Field Battery, said the regiment was honoured to thank Baker “for his years of service to our country.”
“Today’s been a very moving experience. To not only see the organizations that have come together, but to see the community come out in recognition of Mr. Baker – I don’t know if words can really describe the sentiment of the air today,” said Taylor.