At age 91, local veteran Thomas (Barney) Slattery has some tales to tell from his time in service.
Originally from Montreal, Quebec, his interest in the military began when he first joined the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets at age 10 in 1941. The next year, he decided the sea wasn’t for him and transferred to the Army Cadets. Following that, he joined the Reserve Army Royal Canadian Grenadier Guards at age 18.
From 1951 and 1952, he served in the Korean War with Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. During that time, he had 27 successful jumps as a paratrooper.
“I was excited about jumping out of a plane. It was thrilling,” he said. “It was an honour to have served in that particular unit, I would never trade it for all the tea in China.”
In 1953, Slattery was honoured to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London, England.
“The parade for the coronation took over three hours, composed of military from all of the countries in the commonwealth,” said Slattery. “I didn’t meet the Queen, but she was only a few feet away from me handing out medals.”
The memory of the Queen’s coronation has become even more special following her death on Sept. 8, 2022. On that same day, he received the Queen’s Jubilee Award, presented by MP Rob Morrison at the Creston Museum.
After his military service in the 1950s, Slattery moved into the oil and gas industry and worked as chief executive officer in both Canada and the United States.
He was also quite involved with extracting oil from the Athabasca tar sands in Fort McMurray, when there were less than 1,000 people living in the area.
Outside of work, he loved to travel. One of his favourite places was Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lived for a few years.
He has approached life with a sense of humour, developing his own catchphrase along the way – “Ship Ahoy!”
“Rather than swear, that’s what I say when I want to let out something crazy,” said Slattery, who came up with the saying after his favourite seafood restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Slattery has been a member of the Royal Canadian Legion since 1960. For the last 30 years, he has called Creston home during his retirement. He moved to be close to some of his military friends, including Percy Faith and Jack Rodgers.
“Jack and I were pretty close because we were overseas together,” said Slattery. “He was a paratrooper too. And we did all the things that we shouldn’t have done. He was just a special friend, the kind you don’t find very often who would give you the shirt off his back.”
In memory of his friends, Slattery said he hasn’t missed a single Remembrance Day service yet.