Despite having only lived in Grand Forks for about two weeks, when Bill Emery heard about the attacks on the two Canadian soldiers he didn’t hesitate to stand guard at the local cenotaph.
“We were taking it back,” he said. “All across the country people have been standing by the cenotaph taking it back from the shooting that was done.”
Like most of us, Emery was shocked when he heard about the shooting in Ottawa.
“It really touches home that it could happen at home,” he said. “A lot of retired military people and serving people decided they were going to take it back.”
Emery said the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People came up and were shaking our hands,” he said. “They didn’t know me but they knew Dave (Bachmier). They thanked us for being there. Some people brought flowers. Some came up and asked if they could get us anything.”
Emery said it’s also important for the veterans to stand strong for Remembrance Day.
“Just to remember all those who passed away and were killed in action,” he said. “For the people who died in the world wars. I didn’t have any family in those but from the Afghan war and Bosnia war, there was probably a couple dozen people who were friends of mine. The first five people killed in Afghanistan, I worked with. You work hand in hand and the next thing you know they’re in the funeral procession. It touches home.”
Before moving to the Boundary, Emery spent 37 years in the military both as a soldier and as a civilian.
He joined the Air Force in 1977 and served in uniform for 20 years. He then worked as a civilian from 2000-2014 in the military.
He counts several highlights during his military career, including a three-year tour in Germany.
“That was when the wall was still up so we couldn’t get into the Eastern countries when I was there—it was forbidden,” he said.
Another highlight was a tour of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the conflict there in the early 1990s.
“I was over there with NATO,” he said. “We were the first tour to take over after the UN. So it was a completely different concept.”
Emery said he remembers the different factions shooting over top of their camp at night.
“We were right on the line,” he said. “In evenings when we were in camp, they would be pushing buttons to see our reaction. They wouldn’t shoot at the camp but they’d shoot over top. We’d have to send out patrols to chase them off.”
He said they were basically living in sea containers converted into living quarters.
Emery grew up in nearby Slocan Valley in the 1970s and joined the Air Force because “there wasn’t much there.” He and his brother both signed up at the same time.
“We both ended up at some bases at the same time,” said Emery. “I needed a career. I wasn’t going to log or work in a sawmill.”
He enjoyed the camaraderie with his fellow soldiers in the military.
“All the people you meet; all the travelling you do—it was really good,” said Emery. “I’d do it again in a minute. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.”
Emery added that it’s a great feeling to be able to serve your country.
“That was the highlight of everything,” he said. “That underscores everything. You do it for the flag; for your country. You don’t hesitate in anything you do. You just do it because that’s what you’re there for.”
He started his career working as military police in a small base on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border called Alsask.
“It was good,” he said. “It was a small base and everyone knew everyone. You had to work as a team because there are no individuals when you’re that small. It’s a big family. It’s 100 people. You have to work together.”
He then was transferred to Comox where he spent four years. From there it was off to Germany from 1983-1986.
He went full circle and ended up back in Comox as a civilian where he worked as a finance officer.
He retired on Oct. 23 of this year and moved out to the Boundary shortly after.
“We’d been through Grand Forks on our holidays and we really like the area and the weather,” said Emery. “Just the people we met in the short time we were here.”
He and his wife also like the growing conditions for their prize-winning dahlias.
“We’ll have a huge dahlia garden,” he said. “We’ll have over 400 varieties. We go to competitions in the Lower Mainland and across the line. We’re working on the garden now to get it ready for the spring.”
Emery also trains dogs in his spare time. He also struggles occasionally trying to keep the dogs away from the dahlias.
“We have four dogs: three German Shepherds and a Shih Tzu,” he said. “They go to competitions a couple of times a year for tracking, obedience and protection.”
With a strong background of service to the country, Bill Emery, and his wife, are a strong addition to our area.