Frank “Chevy” Chevrier didn’t know what love was until it hit him like a ton of bricks.
The year was 1956. Though the Second World War had ended, Canada was still maintaining a presence in Europe as part of the NATO forces.
The 84-year-old member of the Langford branch of the Royal Canadian Legion remembers the day when he was out on a blackout drive in West Germany when his comrade crashed their vehicle into a rock wall.
“My jaw broke in two places,” said Chevrier, who was 20 at the time and held the rank of lance corporal.
“It all happened so fast. First the crash, then the windshield broke and all of us got banged up pretty hard. The next thing I knew I was in the hospital getting my jaw, nose and one ear fixed up by a doctor and a dental hygienist.”
Her name was Joy.
A member of the British dental corp, she not only scaled and treated his broken jaw, she stole his heart.
They married a couple months later in the summer of 1957 in England.
Over the next few months, Chevrier worked as a ration clerk back in West Germany. He’d drive 25 miles from the camp and bring food back to the commissary where the cooks would prepare meals.
It was all part of the lifestyle of waking up at 0600, aka 6 a.m., and completing patrol exercises near the West German border before heading to bed at 2200, aka 10 p.m.
During his first tour with the second Canadian Infantry Brigade Group, he says the Germans didn’t like Canadian troops on their home soil.
“They’d throw potatoes and rocks at you when they had the chance,” he said. “They’d call you a pig and even spit at you. You just had to take it and not retaliate.”
Chevrier would always be in uniform, even during late nights at the local pub. They were advised to go with two or more people to avoid getting jumped while returning to the base.
By the end of 1957, Chevrier and Joy returned to Canada and settled at CFB Esquimalt.
The Winnipeg-born man trained in what he calls a “little engineering group” that would work on creating and disarming assault weapons and booby traps. By the next time he would be sent back to Europe in 1963, the couple would have their first daughter, Susan.
Soon enough, Joy and their four-year-old joined Chevrier in Germany as tensions rose during the Cold War. He would later have two more children there.
One of his most memorable moments during his second tour was hearing the U.S. president John F. Kennedy famous anti-communist speech ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’
The speech highlighted anti-communist values nearly two years after the Berlin Wall had been built in 1961.
Chevrier pointed out that most Germans “were much nicer” to Canadian troops in 1963.
Though he’s thankful for the time spent abroad in his 22 years of service, Chevrier is relieved he didn’t have to stay too long during two tours with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
Known as Operation Snowgoose, his first stint lasted six months and nine days, the second was seven months and 19 days.
“I only remember the rumbling of tanks firing day and night,” said Chevrier. “It was so touch-and-go there and I saw things that were unforgettable in the worst possible ways.”
Looking back, Chevrier says his life could’ve gone down a completely different path because he wasn’t planning on being sent to Germany in the first place. In fact, 65 years ago, he was four days out from being sent to Korea when plans shifted after opposing forces agreed on an armistice.
Nonetheless, the Saanich man is grateful his choices has led him to where he is today, with his second wife, Joan in a quaint apartment building with a pristine view of the Gorge.
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