Oak Bay retired Brigadier-General earns Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

Lead organizer on BC’s first Afghanistan memorial honoured by Governor General medal

Oak Bay resident E. L. (Larry) Gollner, retired Brigadier-General, can’t pin down what his latest accolade might be for – two years working on B.C.’s first Afghanistan memorial, or two decades working with veterans.

He expects he’ll never know who’s responsible for the surprise phone call the evening of April 23 from the Governor General’s staff in Rideau Hall.

“I was both surprised and honoured needless to say,” Gollner said.

Goller will receive the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers that recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements from across the country and abroad, celebrating a wide range of voluntary contributions.

He only spotted on recently, and pointed out to his wife Christine, on a naval officer during the recent event at Government House for the outgoing Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon.

As an official honour created by the Crown, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is part of the Canadian Honours System. The program has incorporated and replaced the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, which was created in 1995, by then-Governor General the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc.

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes living Canadians who have made a significant, sustained and unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad. Non-Canadians are also eligible if their contribution brings benefit or honour to Canadians or to Canada.

“It’s been around for not all that long, but someone obviously did the research and decided I might be a suitable candidate and nominated me and there I was,” Gollner said.

While they don’t tell who made the nomination, he figures it could be for the two-year effort he put into the BC’s first Afghanistan memorial in Victoria at the corner of Quadra and Courtney streets. He’s also been the senior advisor to veterans ombudsman for going on eight years

RELATED: Oak Bay man leads Afghanistan memorial project

“But I’ve been looking after veterans individually and collectively for 20 years now so it might be that too. And I don’t suppose they’ll enlighten me,” he said good-naturedly. Gollner noted he earned the Order of Military Merit a long time ago and never did find out exactly why.

Given the choice of receiving from the Lieutenant Governor here, or heading for Rideau Hall to receive the honour from Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, he hopes to see it come sooner locally. Plus he’s already met the new Governor General last year, and would like to meet the new LG Janet Austin, CEO of the Metro Vancouver YWCA and former executive director of Big Sisters of the Lower Mainland.

He’d love to have the medal in time for the Aug. 9 National Peacekeeping Day parade, where people will expect to see it for the ceremony at the cenotaph in Victoria.

“I’m proud of the award, but I would certainly appreciate knowing more about why I got it so I could thank the people that went to the trouble of preparing it,” Gollner said. “I appreciate that someone took the time to recognize what I have been doing, whatever it is.”

Nominate a friend, neighbour or member of your community who deserves this unique honour by visiting www.gg.ca/caring.



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Oak Bay resident Brigadier General (Ret’d) J. E. L. Gollner, prepares for his role as guest of honour at the open house to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle for Vimy Ridge in 2017. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

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