A Silver Cross Mother is chosen each year by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 to lay a wreath during the Remembrance Day ceremonies on behalf of all mothers who have lost children in the service of their country.
The title is named for the Silver Cross, a medal awarded to such mothers by the Canadian Forces.
Jan Hermiston has been chosen by Branch 139 as this year’s Silver Cross Mother.
“This is my second time as Silver Cross Mother,” Jan says. “It is quite an honour to be chosen.”
Although Jan is grateful not to have lost a child to war, she has had many days and nights of worry when her son, Darren, was serving two tours of duty each in war torn Afghanistan and Bosnia.
Now that Darren is stationed in Ottawa as a Warrant Officer in the communications division, Jan says she doesn’t worry quite so much.
But she says she continues to worry and grieve for families who have lost loved ones in war and conflict around the world and here at home in the service of Canada.
“We are a family, not just individual families,” Jan says. “You worry not only for your own child but for all military men and women.”
She says there are currently 29 families in the Williams Lake area with members serving Canada in the Armed Forces.
Jan and her husband, Stanley, are both members of Legion Branch 139.
Stanley served three years on the Peace Keeping mission in Cyprus with the Queens Own Rifles during the 1960s before the couple settled in Williams Lake 38 years ago to work and raise their family.
Stanley is retired from Weldwood (now West Fraser) and Jan continues to run J&E Gifts with Elaine Winslow.
Over the years Elaine and Jan have cooked in the Legion Branch 139 kitchen and served on the executive.
Currently both Jan and Elaine are the Cariboo Chilcotin area representatives for the Military Family Resource Centre in Vancouver’s Jericho Garrison. They have also served on the provincial board of this organization in the past.
As resource centre representatives, Jan and Elaine help veterans and their families to access information and services they may need.
Among other things they help families to access information and counselling services for a member who has post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Jan says the disorder may show up in an individual years after they have left the structure of military life for civilian life where sounds, or smells or certain visual situations may trigger the condition.
Anyone who has been involved in a traumatic situation can develop PTSD, she notes.
“The majority of people don’t make the time to understand where people with the disorder are coming from,” Jan says. “Years ago your grandparent would be told to suck it up and move on. It was never talked about but today you can speak about these things and know that treatment is available.”
Help and counselling services are also available for parents who may be seeing their young son or daughter go into a war zone for the first time.
“Some parents panic when their kids go overseas. It is scary,” Jan says. “Twenty years ago if you had told me my kid would be going overseas to fight in a war I would have said you were crazy, but the reality is that my son has served in two wars.”
Jan says both their son, Darren and daughter, Andra Peever have seen how people live in other parts of the world, Darren in the military and Andra, who went with a missionary group last year to visit Israel.
Darren and his wife Pamela live in Petawawa with their children Taylor, Abigail, and Brett. Andra and her husband, Vern Peever, live in 100 Mile House and have four children, Daniel, Hunter, Noah, and Mackenna.
Jan is also happy that Daniel and his wife, Shelby, have given them a great-grandson, Elijah.
She encourages everyone to join the Legion Wednesday in supporting all those who serve to keep Canada safe, by attending the Remembrance Day ceremonies and joining them for lunch and camaraderie at the Legion hall after the ceremonies.
“We support the troops in whatever theatre they are sent in order to keep us safe in our country,” Jan says. “We still wear red on Fridays to remind people that even when wars are not in the headlines, we still have troops in danger.”