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Former peacekeeper proud of shifting gears, adding diploma to his toolbox

Ken Himes recalls tense moments in Cyprus as a young man trying to help keep the peace
Ken Himes holds a photo of himself in his early 20s when he was doing military training in California. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

Ken Himes was raised in an army family, so it came as no surprise to him that he made his into the military himself as a young man.

He trained on bases in Greater Victoria and in California in 1985, and found himself in the middle of a centuries-old fight when he transferred to the Middle East as one of Canada’s members of the United Nations Peackeeping Force in 1988.

“I worked in the special forces in Cyprus where Greek and Turkey have been at war for hundreds of years,” the Langford resident said. “They have a line that’s called the demarcation or the green zone and it runs through all of Cyprus, where I patrolled around to ensure that either side didn’t bring weapons up to the green zone border.”

The dichotomy was interesting, he reflected.

While Turkey took their military duties very seriously and always wore their professional and well-kept uniforms, he remembered that the Greeks seemed much more relaxed as they smoked happily in their casual T-shirts on the other side.

When weapons were brought to the green zone, a then 23-year-old Himes would find himself negotiating with much older men – who didn’t speak English – to put their .50-caliber machine guns away.

“Because of that, I am constantly on high alert, even to this day,” he said, something he is working through as he begins to address his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

His dentist, who noticed that Himes grinds his teeth, was the first person to point out he may be suffering from PTSD.

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As Himes thought about how his past has impacted him, he voiced pride in the fact the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces won the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize.

“I really don’t consider myself a hero, though – there are many more men I know so worthy of that title.”

After his return, Himes joined the army reserves in Victoria, where he taught basic training and leadership courses.

A jack of all trades, he was also working part-time as a medic and full-time at the post office – but the long and gruelling hours as he went from one job to the next with no breaks in between got to him after some time.

Eventually, he was burnt out and in need of hip replacement surgery, so he left his many jobs behind. He explained that having fairly flat feet caused nerve damage up his legs to his hips, from the running required of him during his army days. In the in-between years, Himes, now 59, garnered years of experience as an announcer in sports such as boxing and hockey.

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Another point of pride is the fact he transformed from a man with a Grade 9 education level to someone who recently completed a diploma program in public relations from the University of Victoria.

With a booming classic radio voice that seems ideal for an announcer/broadcaster, Himes is seeking to further his career in the world of entertainment, as he comes to terms with the lasting effects of his military career. He is creative, a lover of music and art and has posters of Led Zeppelin and all of rock-and-roll’s greatest lining the walls of his home where he lives with his dog, Tobias. He has also helped to plan events and provided security for Joe Walsh, Alice Cooper, Barenaked Ladies and other artists who’ve performed in the area in recent years.

“My greatest gift in this life is my voice, and I want more than anything to use it to make a difference in the world.”

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