Friday, October 19, 2012

The Order Of St. George - My Thoughts

Last weekend I was invested into The Order Of St. George and now that I've had a week to let it all set in I wanted to share my thoughts on the weekend with everyone.

In November of 2011 I started receiving questions of specific details of things I had accomplished through “Thank A Soldier” & “Tim Horton’s for our troops from Major John Haylock (Canadian Forces) who I met back in 2007 as we were connected through the Military Family Resource Center for him to deliver thousands of coffee certificates that members of our Facebook page had to sent to be delivered to military members serving in Afghanistan. Major Haylock then sent me information on “The Order Of St. George” and to check it out as I had been nominated by him to be entered into the Order in October of 2012.

I had to keep this secret until it was official which for anyone that knows me was really tough however I managed to do so. The week leading up to this event I was so nervous that I started to have some pretty weird dreams such as when I was being Knighted I dreamt the Grand Master sliced my ear off with the sword, had one about turning around to the crowd after being knighted and then realizing I had no clothing on, however we’ll get back to the nervousness a little later.

Friday October 12th “Meet & Greet” night

I had no idea what to expect as I checked in to the hotel about four hours before the reception was to take place. At 18:30 I put on my suit at 18:25 and made my way downstairs. I walk in to a room with a lot of strangers at first but quickly started to be introduced to a lot of people once Major Haylock showed up. I also was joined by a friend who I had known through Facebook for many years but never met in person Julia Daniels who shared the evening with me.

Then the ceremony started where each postulant was given a miniature Order Of St. George medal and at that point Grand Master Gareth Green gave everyone a brief overview of some of my efforts. After that I had several soldiers come up to me saying they had received coffee certificates and wanted to say “Thank You” which at this point I had relaxed and was blown away already by the pre-events of the night before.

At this point General Rick Hillier walked in and got to speak with him for awhile which was one of the highlights of this night for sure. He remembered meeting me a few years ago at an event he was speaking at which was amazing. The feeling of walking in to a room of strangers was already gone and at this point I felt like I was with friends.

Saturday October 13th “The Investiture” 

After a morning breakfast with all the postulants to go over details of what would be happening in the church we made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral on Bloor street and at this point the nervousness & anxiety of “Worrying about doing something to mess things up” went in to overload. I have never in my life felt like I was going to faint before but for the first thirty minutes of the service I was pretty sure I was going to fall over.

I was #24 on the list to be Knighted so I had to find a way to try and calm my nerves. The program they gave us had a write up on everyone being invested into The Order so as each person was called up I read their stories and was blown away at the company of people I was joining on this day. At that moment as I look three people to the left of me and see the Minister of Defense Peter Mckay sitting there waiting to be knight also I guess everything in the last five years hit me. I don’t stop long enough sometimes to think about these things but at this moment it all did at once and I was very overcome with emotion. Knowing that my whole family was ten rows behind me, friends had driven in from Ottawa for this, an aunt Uncle also from the same distance it hit me how big of a deal this really was.

As the 23rd person was being knighted I thought to myself “OK, I’m next calm down and this will be all done in about two minutes and I can relax” well after that person was done an opera singer got up and sang “hallelujah” which was so peaceful and beautiful I don’t remember if it relaxed me more at that point or made me more nauseous but I knew I was next and had to pull it together.

I thing started to think about my grandmother Annie Pretty who for some reason I could hear her voice saying “Now my son just take a deep breathe and you’ll be fine” I did that and next thing I knew I was shaking General Rick Hillier’s hand and what he said to me I will keep to myself but it did mean a lot to me.

It was done at this point, and I relaxed, enjoyed the music and watching others join the Order. After the ceremony was over I got to meet some Facebook friends I had never met in person that came out for the event like Keven Ellis NWRC & Sarah Blanche from Soldiers Portraits which was awesome and the day was still young.

Saturday October 13th – The Reception Dinner

My work (Shaw Communications) paid for all eight spots at a table for me for this reception (Along with my flight from Calgary to Toronto & other expenses) so I knew it was going to be a special evening. At my table were my parents, brother & sister & Major John Haylock who nominated me for the order. My other two spots were to be taken by MCpl Jody Mitic & his wife Allanah but sadly she & their children were ill but they could not make the trip.

Thankfully MCpl Jody Mitic did come to this event and as I have written about him many times on my blog he has probably been the most inspirational person I have met in five years of my various efforts.

The meal was amazing and after the meal they were going through various announcements and then Minster Peter Mckay gave a speech was great to listen to. 

Grand Master Gareth Green, Mister Peter Mckay & Mcpl Jody Mitic

Then something happened that I was not prepared for Grand Master Gareth Green made some announcements about promotions within The Order and then announced “We have a special guest here with us this evening please stand Jody Mitic” he was then given a standing ovation by the room and it was when Gareth said “Jody, YOU are now a member of this order” that I lost it. I had no idea this was going to happen and to know that one of my biggest personal inspirations would be joining me in this brother hood was something I can’t put in to words.

Major Roland & Joan Murphy, David & Darrin Murphy & Dana King

Having my entire immediate family at all these events with me was also something very special. My parents who are retired Salvation Army officers with over 35 years of service it’s pretty easy to see where I get my charitable heart from. My brother and my sister who I am also very close with made the nervousness a little easier with their jokes and made the evening very comfortable. At the end of the night though I felt as if I had gained a new family with the people I met. 

Grand Master Gareth Green then spoke about how he had a “Flame” inside him for the Order and that is how I feel about “Thank A Soldier” it’s a flame that I have for our military and their families that drives me to keep going and it just keeps getting bigger.

After the dinner and main event was over one of my favourite parts of the entire weekend was just being around the new members and people that had been in the order for years listening to them tell funny stories I could have stayed there all evening but the night ended at around 03:00.

I would like to say THANK YOU to Major John Haylock for nominating me, The Chevalier Gareth J. Green, CD, KGCStG & The Chevalier Gerard A. Nudds, KGCStG for accepting the nomination and allowing me to join such a prestigious Order.

Thank you to Shaw Communications for covering a good part of my personal expenses I would have had to pay for this weekend.

Thank you to every person who has ever joined a page of mine, shared a project or a post as without all of my group members none of this would even be possible. Most importantly to all the men and women who serve our countries and have served in the past THANK YOU

I am not the type of person that organizes these efforts looking for recognition but when they come from members of the military I humbly accept them as I did when receiving the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal thanks to a Veteran of the Canadian Forces who referred me. A quick history of some of the things we’ve been able to do through our site :

- Sent over $100,000 in free coffee to troops serving in Afghanistan

- Petitioned to Canada Post to release a stamp honouring Veterans and successful

- Connect military spouses together through our page

- Connect families of fallen soldiers together anonymously

- “The Gratitude Project “ which was a series of YouTube videos of people holding “Thank You” signs to show thanks to our men and women serving

- “Holiday Cards For Veterans” which is now in our second year

- promote other organizations with various ongoing projects they have

- Spread the word about “Red Fridays” on social media and other efforts on Twitter & Facebook on specific days “Team Thank A Soldier Thursdays”, Military Monday & Warrior Wednesday

- setup over 6000+ school children with soldiers as pen pals

View photos of the event on our FACEBOOK PAGE

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