He would point out to me things that, without paying attention, you might not realize. Here is a great example. We take it for granted that when the local pizza shop has a phone number like...
M Y P I Z Z A, sure, its a great way to remember their number... but how does a sight challenged person use that cute number when he or she CAN NOT SEE THE DIAL. By doing this, you have just made it more difficult for anyone with sight challenges to call for that pizza. It also happens to be against the law, federally, and I suspect in provincial legislation all across the country. But it happens all the time. No one does it deliberately, but the result in still the same.
My friend also taught me that when speaking about people with disabilities I should recognize that they also HAVE ABILITIES, and not to label them with the issue that they deal with every day of their lives.
Fresh with this new insight I complained to Elections Canada who at the time where advertising numbers to call them using the above method. They soon came to agree with my argument and at the time made some changes.
Now having said all that, I'll get back to Rowland Bourke. There have been two blogs about Rowland in this space over the past several months. They told of his incredible heroism and also that he had AN ABILITY to see out of only one eye. But folks that did not stop him from have a most incredible career in the military and beyond.
I first came to learn about Rowland when visiting the Royal Oak Burial Ground in Victoria BC. I had heard rumblings that not only were there quite a lot of veterans buried on site, but also that one had been awarded the Victoria Cross. On asking questions, I set off to find him, and ultimately had to get help, but nevertheless I soon was standing at his grave marker, a small dark coloured flat marker. It clearly noted that he was indeed a VC recipient.
Many years earlier a very kindly and patriotic neighbour actually made up hundreds of these small crosses and brought then to the graveyard and mounted them each year at the graves of all known veterans. Over the years he probably had help, and in his later years the task was taking over by the great crews at the cemetery. But surprisingly, there was not one at Bourke's grave.
A few days later I called and after enquiring, was told that his name may not have been put on the list of all the vets and that it would be corrected for 2008. Well, it wasn't. Another call and a promise to correct it for 2009. And this time the good folks did it and have done so ever since. I have continued to visit the grave every Nov 11th since 2007.
Finally it dawned on me in 2010 that, since Rowland was a hero in the Naval Reserves in England, and on emigrating to Canada served with the Canadian Naval Reserves I should contact the local reserve unit... HMCS Malahat and invite them to join me with a few of their sailors on the 11th. The Commanding Officer decided that it was a most worthwhile cause and not only came out with some sailors, but laid a wreath and also gave a short talk about Mr. Bourke's activities back in 1918. In addition he made the statement that HMCS Malahat would make it their duty to conduct a brief service at his grave side on November 11th from that day forth. And HMCS Malahat has not only done so, but arrived now for 3 years and in each has arrived with more sailors than the year before. Kudo's to them.
In early October of 2011, I has discussions with Lorraine Fracy, the Client Services Manager at the Cemetery and learned that like I, she believed that a more prominent marker ought to be in place at Mr. Bourke's grave. We both knew of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission monument program and in the past she had actually enquired about the possibility of having such a marker on site. Word came back that before such could take place family had to be contacted and given approval. Past results apparently did not locate any family.
My friends at the Victoria Genealogical Society and I started to search for family. At the same time the folks at HMCS Malahat were of similar mind and actually posted an item on face-book. The timings was perfect as a family member discovered the post and contacted the Naval Reserves and they contacted the cemetery and I put on hold my searches and the ball started rolling. The cemetery then had to sit and think most seriously about a very long standing bylaw that did not allow for the placement of upright markers in many areas of the cemetery. Bourke's in particular being one of these.
The matter had to be taken to the Board and after serious consideration it was agreed that due to the significance of the honors awarded to Mr. Bourke, and him being the only one with such medals in the park, that a one time only waver of the rules was in order. This decision was not taken lightly and the cemetery made it abundantly clear at the time that it was a one of a kind situation.
Once decided on, the cemetery made contacts with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Veterans Affairs Canada and later approval was given for the funding of a marker for Mr. Bourke.
From there Lorraine Fracy, Jason Jones, (Rowland was his Great Grandmother's brother), Lt (Navy) Peggy Kumala of HMCS Malahat and I formed a committee to organize a suitable unveiling that would not only bring dignity to the unveiling but serve to yet again bring Rowland Bourke's story of heroism to the community.
That service will now be held in two days time....at 1 p.m. SHARP on Wednesday 8 May at the Royal Oak Burial Park on Fallais Drive in Saanichton. There is no charge to attend the serve, and there is plenty of parking on site. It is open to all.
At that ceremony you will witness for the first time ever on Vancouver Island and the second in BC history, a marker of this type being unveiled. Two days after its unveiling will mark the 95th anniversary from the battle in which Rowland Bourke earned his Victoria Cross. The British Admiral in charge of the battle would later describe Rowland Bourke as the BRAVEST OF ALL VC HOLDERS. The Belgian Ambassador to Canada has chosen to come to Vancouver on business this month so that he could come to Victoria and be with us for this service on the 8th. The British High Commission in Ottawa has directed its most senior Officer currently serving on the west coast of Canada to participate in our service.
Our Own Navy's top ranking officer, Rear Admiral Truelove, who commands all Maritime Forces on the west coast will participate. The Commander of all Naval Reserves in Canada will attend, as will many other very senior officers, a Guard of Honor, several descendants and others from the military, museum, cultural, archival and other communities.
Please come out on Wednesday to support all the work this committee has done, and even more that many have done behind the scenes to recognize our hero, and indeed all those who have, who currently are, and who will in the future wear our uniform with pride and honour in the years to come.
The freedoms we enjoy today did not come from the ink in the pens, it came from the bullets that came out of the ends of those guns and from the men AND WOMEN who carried them.