A Merrickville-Wolford veteran has been honoured for his service to the community with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation. Randall (Randy) Stowell joined the Canadian armed forces in 1965 and served for 36 years. Throughout his military career he had 13 postings which brought him and his wife all across Canada, to Germany three times, and to England. “We had a good military career,” he remembers.
When he retired from the military in 2001, Randy says he was “seduced” into doing some volunteer work at the Merrickville Legion. “One thing led to another and I become quite active there,” he says. From 2010 to 201, he sat on the executive including four terms as Branch President, Chair of the Sports Committee, Branch Poppy Chair, Chair of the Poppy Committee, and served as Master of Ceremonies for the Village’s annual Remembrance Day service. As a result of his efforts, the Branch obtained two federal grants to upgrade accessibility and the Legion was able to install an elevator and wheelchair lift in its building. Randy has also spent countless hours performing day to day maintenance at the Branch and was the “chief cook” for four years of monthly dinners.
In 2015, Randy joined the NATO Veterans Organization of Canada and became President in 2016. The goal of the organization is to advocate for long term care for veterans and their families across Canada. In his role, he meets regularly with senior Veterans Affairs officials and rallies parliamentarians to advocate on behalf of veterans and their families. He says his experience working with Veterans Affairs has been a good one, and that he is happy to see that the military is doing more to support the families of veterans as they transition out of military life. “When I left the service in 2001 there was very little being done for families,” he says. “The military has developed a very good program for transitioning military people out. The military has a strong support system for families while serving and once retired and that’s been a big improvement.” Randy’s work with the NATO Veterans Association has continued throughout the pandemic through Zoom calls and what they call “buddy checks” where they call up veterans to make sure they are doing ok. “For us the buddy check is part of our weekly routine,” he says.
This year’s Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendations were announced on Monday December 7 by Minister Lawrence MacAulay. According to the Veterans Affairs website, the Commendation is awarded annually to individuals who have performed commendable service to the Veteran community and/or individuals who represent commendable role models for their fellow veterans. Randy says he had no idea he was even nominated for the Commendation until he got a phone call from the Minister of Veterans Affair’s office in July. At the time he wasn’t sure who had nominated him; but he has since learned that it was a retired chief warrant officer from the combat engineers who he knew throughout his military career as well as through his work with the NATO Veterans Organization. “That’s actually the thing that impressed me the most,” he says. “It doesn’t happen too often that a big tough chief warrant officer would sit down and put pen to paper to recognized someone. And he’s an engineer and I was artillery so we’re not in the same parish. That was actually pretty nice for me.”
Mayor Doug Struthers is thrilled that one of the Village’s dedicated Legion volunteers is being recognized with this national recognition. He says he has known Randy for a long time, meeting him first along the walking trails in Limerick Forest. As Mayor, he got to know him more in his role as President of the Merrickville Legion. “He was always quietly and unassumingly thinking of and helping others,” he says. “How fittingly appropriate that an officer from a different corps submitted his name to receive the Minister’s Commendation.”
This is the second award that Randy has received over the past few years for his volunteerism. In 2018, he was awarded Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from Governor General Julie Payette. Randy says it is very nice to be recognized in an official capacity by the Minister of Veterans Affairs and he will be wearing the bar proudly on his uniform along with his other medals of service. “This commendation is limited in its distribution and I’m amongst a group of people who have all tried to do something for veterans,” he says. “Recognition is always nice and it’s a great honour.”