West Point Grey: Bringing medals home

An Ontario man on an 18-month mission to reunite families and museums with artifacts and papers from the First and Second World Wars chose Jericho Garrison as his first stop.

Dr. Kevin McCormick, president and chancellor of Sudbury-based Huntington University, launched his project at the garrison April 16, where he presented artifacts belonging to a soldier who once served with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada to the regiments archivist.

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McCormick, who is Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Irish Regiment of Canada, has been scouring ads on Craigslist and eBay looking for military artifacts with a goal to donate them back to families or military museums. McCormicks cross-Canada odyssey coincides with the 100th anniversary of the First World War July 28, 2014. Last week, McCormick donated a set of rare medals, dog tags and other personal effects once belonging to a Sgt. J.I. Thompson to the Seaforths.

Robert MacDonald, retired captain and curator of the Seaforth military museum, was delighted with the artifacts.

"Not all soldiers were gods or heroes," said MacDonald. "But I want every story to be told."

MacDonald added McCormicks mission is an admirable one. "And the fact he reunites families with medals without telling them the cost is a nice thing to do, thats for sure."

McCormick pays for everything out of pocket. He told the Courier he never discloses the amount paid for any item or how much hes contributed by way of donation.

"Its not about the money, so I never talk about it and I never ask for tax receipts," said McCormick. "I just think its important to honour the contributions of those individuals who served and made sacrifices for us."

McCormick is so emphatic about honouring the freedom he says the soldiers helped preserve for Canadians today that he has no interest in regulating the fate of medals the soldiers received. But McCormick admitted he struggles when he sees sets of military medals for sale online advertised for their worth if melted down for the silver. "Im not for regulation because I think its more important that people just get it," said McCormick.

He added its just as disturbing to see medals advertised as being the complete set of a soldier killed in action. Those ads make McCormick wonder if the family of the soldier has any idea their grandparents or great-grandparents medals are being sold online. McCormick purchases as many as he can find to reunite the artifacts with a family member.

"If I cant find a family member I donate them to a museum with a verbal agreement that should a family member come forward, that they go to them."

McCormick added if anyone in Vancouver has questions about how to track down a family members military history or has artifacts theyd like to donate to a museum or return to loved ones, hed be happy to help. McCormick can be reached by email at kmccormick@huntingtonu.ca.

sthomas@vancourier.com

twitter.com/sthomas10

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