Persian Gulf vets honoured at National War Memorial
By Peter Mallett,
The Lookout Staff
It was only a short moment in time when CPO1 Gerald Doutre carried a wreath up the steps to the National War Memorial and gently laid it at the base of the massive stone sculpture.
Etched on the ribbon adorning the Remembrance Day wreath were the words Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada. To those watching, it was just another wreath joining the dozens carefully placed there during the Nov. 11 service. But to hundreds of military members like CPO1 Doutre, it was a marker of time served in a long-ago war.
“It was certainly a proud moment for all Persian Gulf veterans and me, and without a doubt it was also therapeutic,” said CPO1 Doutre. “We had a lot of good folks over there who sacrificed so much; attending this ceremony gave us a chance to remember this and create awareness for the rest of Canada about what we did in the Gulf War.”
Today, CPO1 Doutre, 50, works as Division Chief for the Director General of Maritime Equipment and Program Management in Gatineau, Que. He is also a member of the Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada.
Almost three decades ago, as a young Leading Seaman, he deployed to the Persian Gulf as a Naval Electronic Sensor Operator on board HMCS Athabaskan. The Iroquois-class destroyer was the command and control vessel for the three-ship Canadian Task Group, with their efforts largely focussed on resupplying Allied ships fighting in the war.
He vividly remembers the black, acrid smoke clouding the sky over Kuwait from oil wells set on fire by Iraqi troops, and when Athabaskan was called on to escort guided missile cruiser USS Princeton and USN tugboat after Princeton was severely damaged on February 18, 1991, by two bottom-mounted influence mines.
“As far as facing danger during operational deployment, it was definitely up there because we didn’t really know what to expect and had to negotiate through an area of underwater mines when we were escorting,” said CPO1 Doutre. “The interesting thing about the Gulf War was even though the war itself lasted just 49 days, we were stationed there for much longer and didn’t know when we would be coming back home.”
The Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada is an advocacy, social and support association for Persian Gulf Veterans and their families. They work to increase awareness of Canada’s contributions in the Persian Gulf War to the Canadian public. For more information on membership and ways to support their efforts visit their website at http://persiangulfveteranscanada.ca