As we go about our daily lives, Canadians should always take time to appreciate how lucky they are to live in such a great country, and remember that things wouldn’t be this way without the brave soldiers who came before us, says a local veteran.
“With no veterans, there would be no freedoms,” said Sooke resident Tom Lott, who served 25 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Lott grew up in New Westminster, a suburb in Greater Vancouver, with his parents Eliza and Philip Lott and sister Darlene.
He worked many jobs growing up, but after graduation began working as a teller for a bank.
After a few years, Lott wanted to change his career path, and began looking at military jobs that he might qualify for.
At the age of 23, he applied to join the air force. A few months later he began working as a navigator, tracking Russian submarines and monitoring their activity.
“I’m not big on guns, believe it or not,” laughed Lott. “But I saw the position of a navigator and thought, ‘Hey, I could probably do that’ because I was pretty good with numbers.”
Lott wasn’t the only one of his family members to have served in the Canadian military, both his father and grandfather served as well. Lott’s grandfather was a survivor of Vimy Ridge.
“A lot of veterans don’t talk about it when they get back. The only complaint I think I ever heard him say was ‘I don’t think I had dry feet for two years.’ The weather they had to endure was just treacherous,” said Lott.
He explained that a lot of countries tried to defeat Germans, and the Canadians did so by doing something unexpected, and now, the morning of the defeat is often referred to as the day Canada became a country.
“I’ve heard a lot of definitions of a veteran, but I think the one that is best suited is ‘A veteran is a person who has written a blank cheque to the people of Canada, for any price up to and including his or her life,’” said Lott.
Lott never ended up having to go to battle, but said he was never afraid of receiving a call.
“I’m not a person who tries to predict the future. If you look ahead and you see bad things, it’s going to ruin your day, so I just take life as it comes,” he said.
Lott said it’s important to make sure that Canadians knows and remember they live in a free country because of our veterans.
“We are very lucky because there aren’t a lot of countries that have the same freedoms as we do here,” said Lott. “Throughout time, some 118,000 Canadians have made the grand sacrifice. And it’s not only at war where veterans get killed, it’s also in peacetime.”
He explained that he has lost over 25 close friends during his time serving in the air force, and one day in particular, he lost 15 men after their plane went down during a training exercise.
“Flying itself is not difficult, but it is unforgiving,” he said. “I knew every single one of them. There were several sad days in my career, but that had to have been the saddest. We were all like a big family.”
Although Lott had to experience such tragedy while serving, he explained that it was part of the job and that he still enjoyed his many years serving.
“I would do it again in an instant. It was a great career” he said. “I got to travel all over. I don’t even know how many countries I’ve been to.”
After retiring from the military, Lott and his wife decided to to pack up their RV and do a year-long trip across Canada.
“Of all the places I’ve been to, Canada is my favourite,” he said. “It is an absolutely phenomenal country, and we are so incredibly lucky to live here.”