PACQUET, NL — The Town of Pacquet held a celebration earlier this month to mark Canada’s 150th birthday and honour those who have served and continue to serve our country.
Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Chief Petty Officer 2nd class Rex Burton of Pacquet was guest speaker at the dinner held Nov. 17.
Burton, who lives in Halifax, said it was “truly humbling” to be honoured by his hometown.
“I never classified myself as a veteran and to have my name put on the cenotaph with all those who have served before me... What those veterans in World War I and World War II did, I don’t even begin to put myself on that level. They left home so young not knowing if they’d ever return. And that’s quite overwhelming,” Burton said during a recent phone interview.
Burton’s wife Nicole and his daughter Victoria attended the ceremony. The couple’s son Patrick was unable to make the trip due to school commitments.
Burton said he was honoured to sit beside Audrey Gillingham of Pacquet, the wife of the town’s last war veteran – the late Ewan Gillingham.
Burton joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1988 as a naval weapons technician. He was 20 years old when he enlisted.
After his initial training at CFB Cornwallis, he was posted to the Canadian Naval Engineering School to complete his trades training. He was then posted to his first ship HMCS Annapolis and then – according to information provided by the town – crew swapped with HMCS Terra Nova for her return to Halifax from Victoria, B.C.
In August 1990, HMCS Terra Nova, along with RCN warships HMCS Atabaskan and HMCS Protector, were deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Friction, Canada’s response to Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait.
Burton was deployed to the Persian Gulf for the entire duration of the war (August 1990 – April 1991) and was awarded the Gulf and Kuwait medal for his Persian Gulf tour.
In 1993 he deployed to the former Yugoslavia for seven months aboard HMCS Iroquois.
He deployed to the Persian Gulf for a second time after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This time he was aboard HMCS Toronto to support the war on terror in Afghanistan.
His third deployment to the Middle East came in 2009 when he was onboard HMCS Fredericton to conduct counter piracy off the coast of Somalia, Africa and again in the Persian Gulf in support of Canada’s war on terror in Afghanistan.
Burton is currently posted to Canadian Fleet Atlantic in Halifax as a fleet combat engineering chief.
Throughout his 29 years with the military, he has accumulated almost 2,000 days at sea and has been honoured with 12 awards and decorations for his service to the RCN.
Pacquet town clerk/manager Janet Sacrey, who organized the celebrations, said about 100 people attended the event, including MP Scott Simms, Baie Verte/Green Bay MHA Brian Warr, Mayor John Stead and Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 54 president Rev’d. Sidney Newberry.
The event included a dinner and wreath-laying ceremony. Veterans from Pacquet and Woodstock who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War were honoured at the event. The celebration also included a table display and slideshow focused on the veterans.
Warr presented Burton with a Certificate of Appreciation for his 29 years of service with the RCN.
Funding for the celebration came from the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th and the Town.
Sacrey said future plans include expanding the town’s memory garden in its memorial park.
It was great to see everyone socializing with Burton and his family, she said, and to see how proud he was to be recognized by his hometown.
“I’m very pleased with how everybody pulled together and helped to make this celebration so successful,” Sacrey said.
Burton said Sacrey is to be commended for all the work she does on behalf of her community.
While he may serve his country in various parts of the world, for Burton, Pacquet will always be home.
“As the saying goes back home, you can take the boy out the bay, but you can’t take the bay out of the boy. I love Pacquet and what they did for me is something I’ll never forget.”