Family of late Gulf War veteran awarded memorial cross
By Ryan Melanson,
Ten years after his death from an aggressive brain tumour, the family of Gulf War veteran PO1 Richard Mohr was awarded the Memorial Cross during a ceremony at Stadacona’s St. Brendan’s Chapel on November 11.
The Memorial Cross is an award granted to loved ones of a member whose death is the result of an injury or disease related to military service. PO1 Mohr served as a Naval Communicator in HMCS Athabaskan during Operation FRICTION in support of the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, and his family has long contended that his illness was caused by exposure to chemicals during his deployment to the Gulf region.
“I’m very proud to see this happen. I’m very proud of his service, obviously, and this is the final box that needed to be ticked for him to rest peacefully. There’s a lot of closure today,” said PO1 Mohr’s wife Natasha, who was presented the Memorial Cross at the ceremony, along with her children Andrew and Elizabeth. She was married to PO1 Mohr for 17 years and has been a public advocate for her husband since his death. She’s also been vocal in her criticism of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Federal Government, but said she’s proud her work has now paid off in having the cause of her husband’s death properly recognized, along with the compensation for her family that comes with it.
“I’m glad it’s over and it’s time to move forward,” she said.
Mohr said her husband’s naval career was very important to him, and he spent time in HMC ships Nipigon, Gatineau, Athabaskan, Fraser, Charlottetown, Preserver, Provider, and Toronto during his 22 years with the RCN. She described him as a true soldier, who also worked to instill military traits of strength and determination in his two children, who were his top priority.
“He loved his job and was a soldier in all aspects of his life, but he was a father first and foremost,” Natasha Mohr said.
PO1 Mohr’s daughter Elizabeth spoke at the Memorial Cross service, along with former colleague CPO1(Ret’d) Art Forward, who performed a reading, and family friend and neighbour CPO1 (Ret’d) Earle Corn, now President of the Navy League of Canada, who also shared some memories of PO1 Mohr.
CPO1 (Ret’d) Corn described his late friend as a rare type of individual who kept calm, composed and ready to lead during any difficult situation that presented itself, including in the Gulf. As a Fleet School chief working with members of Athabaskan as the ship prepared to deploy in 1990, he saw PO1 Mohr’s dedication to the job firsthand, in addition to knowing him as a loving husband and father at home.
“He always protected his troops; he looked after his people with all his heart and soul, and he was very good at his job. I was also extremely proud to get to know him as a neighbour and to watch his kids grow up,” CPO1 (Ret’d) Corn said.
Presenting officer Capt(N) Jean Couillard presented Mrs. Mohr and her children each with a Memorial Cross, along with the Sacrifice Medal, Memorial Scroll and Memorial Bar, presented the family as a group. PO1 Mohr will now have his name added to the Seven Books of Remembrance in Ottawa, and his wife expressed hope that her work in having his cause of death acknowledged will benefit other veterans or their families dealing with similar cases in the future. She thanked everyone who supported her family over the last decade, with special thanks to Harold Davis, president of the Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada Association, and to Norman Doucet, who works as an assistant for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook MP Darrell Samson and provided key assistance in dealing with the federal government.