It will be a quieter Remembrance Day service outside City Hall in Williams Lake on Wednesday, Nov. 11 and the public is encouraged to view it online. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

It will be a quieter Remembrance Day service outside City Hall in Williams Lake on Wednesday, Nov. 11 and the public is encouraged to view it online. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

OUR HOMETOWN: A phone call away

Craig Smith spent seven years with the Canadian Armoured Corps

On Remembrance Day Craig Smith will take time to quietly honour the people who died in battle, including those from his own family.

In Williams Lake, he and other residents, will watch the cenotaph ceremony virtually as requested by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139, organizers of the event.

Smith’s grandfather Robert Smith was killed in action in the Second World War. He was a gunner with the 17th Field Regiment Royal Artillery and died on Jan. 18, 1943 at the age of 33.

His great grandfather, Major George Smith, was killed in action during the First World War. He served with the 7th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and died on April 23, 1917.

Inspired by their legacy, Smith joined cadets at the age of 12, and travelled all over Canada with the cadet program.

“At that time you could also be a cadet and in the Reserve Force once you were 16 so I did that for a couple of years as well. My father was in the navy and my grandfather on my other side was in the RCAF during the Second World War. He came back though.”

Smith entered military college at age 18, and afterwards served as an officer in the Canadian Armoured Corps from 1982 through 1989, stationed in Chilliwack, Victoria, Esquimalt, Calgary and Gagetown, NB.

Willing to lend an ear, Smith said any of his friends who are veterans know they can call him up to go for coffee or just talk on the phone.

“Sometimes that’s all they need, someone to talk to,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that are veterans who went through combat.”

Recently he had coffee with a friend who spent three years serving in Afghanistan.

“He came over to visit from Ontario. He is better now, but has gone through some post traumatic stress disorder.”

Another friend he talks with was doing peacekeeping, which Smith said can be different from regular combat situations.

“When you are doing United Nations-type peacekeeping, you are not there to engage,” he explained. “You cannot fire unless you are fired upon. It’s a different type of post traumatic stress because you are always anticipating someone taking a shot at you.”

In both the United States and Canada, efforts are being made to help veterans transition into civilian life, he added, noting the number of homeless veterans in the U.S. is alarming.

“I have a buddy who served for 28 years who is under 55 and thinking of going back in because that is the only life he knows.”

As a soldier in the 1980s, Smith said he was doing training for peacekeeping, but was never in combat

Eventually he left the armoured corps because he wanted to do something different.

Smith’s oldest child’s great grandfather served with the Germany army during the First World War on the Russian front.

“The stuff that he went through just blew me away,” Smith said. “I was the first person he ever talked to about it. At the time I had just got out of the service. I never went through the experiences that he did, and thank God I didn’t.”

Fast forward to the present, however, and Smith has applied to join the Canadian Rangers, a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve, that provides a limited military presence in rural areas.

“I am just waiting for my swearing in. I’ve gone through all the interviews and filled out the paper work,” he said. “The patrol I will be on is out of Bella Coola. Once you get enough guys you can apply to have your own patrol.”

Born in Ocean Falls, B.C., his family moved to Scotland when he was six weeks old and then returned to Canada. Growing up he lived between Kitimat, Kelowna and Salmon Arm.

In 1989, he moved to the Cariboo to open Williams Lake Photocopy.

A year later he moved to Quesnel for five years and returned to Williams Lake in 1996, where he began working as a photographer.

Presently he is serving his second term as a city councillor and works as the chief executive officer of Tl’esqox (Toosey) First Nation, half an hour drive west of Williams Lake, where he does band administration and oversees the band’s businesses.

He is involved with the Shriners and is on the Barkerville Heritage Trust board as the vice-chair.

Smith and his wife Christa Smith are proud parents and grandparents and he said they have put down roots in Williams Lake.

“I’m not a big city fan,” he said.

READ MORE: Legion Branch 139 to host scaled back Remembrance Day services in Williams Lake

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