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A Bit of Burgos by Dale Burgos

Canada Day and honouring a hero

       Valentine De Jesus
Valentine De Jesus

by Dale Burgos

I’m feeling especially patriotic this month – not to say that I am normally unpatriotic – but life has thrown me a curve ball and it has caused me to reflect. More on that in a minute. Right now, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy Canada Day!

What are your plans for Canada’s 152nd birthday? Will you be braving the crowds at The Forks and staying until the grand fireworks show? Will you be taking in the festivities at Assiniboine Park? Unfortunately, I will be doing neither, as I don’t live in Winnipeg anymore. But if I were, you would surely find me at a venue wearing red and white face paint and belting out O Canada at the top of my lungs.

As for my attire, it would surely be a Winnipeg Jets jersey while draping a Canadian flag over my shoulders. For food, I would find the best poutine money can buy.

Can you tell that I’m a proud Canuck? We live a great country, but I don’t need to tell you that. Sure, we’ve got our issues, but it pales in comparison to what other countries (you know who you are) are going through right now.

We live in a democracy that promotes freedom of speech and of the press, plus we celebrate what makes our country special – our diversity. I’m feeling pretty darn lucky. So should you.

I wasn’t feeling this good last month. That’s when I lost someone very close to me; my Ninong Val. He’s the one who named me, and he was quite proud of that. I was the first Canadian born in my extended family, so he chose the most Canadian name he could think of. Not far from my childhood home is Martindale Place, a street in the Maples. I like to think that’s where he got the idea to call me Dale Martin. Pretty Canadian, am I right? Lucky he didn’t name me after McPhillips Street. Phew, dodged a bullet on that one! The other option for a name was King Edward, but that would have been a bit pretentious.

He lived his life as a son, brother, uncle, friend, Ninong and a captain in the Canadian Air Force.

I’m still feeling unbelievable pain at our loss. I have these thoughts running through my head, as one would typically have when losing someone so suddenly. I wish I had more time with him. I wish I had asked him more about his travels and experiences as a member of the NATO Peace Keeping Forces or his stints in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Mogadishu and Somalia.

He was also the lolo to my kids as we lost my dad 14 years ago. We stayed with him in Calgary last summer and we were expecting to stay with him this summer during our tour of Alberta. I’m told he had already prepared for our visit. He had bought the cereal and ice cream the Burgos kids fancy.

When I was a wee lad, I liked to think he introduced me to “culture.” He brought me to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and cooked foods other than pancit and adobo. One such dish was escargot. Would I have eaten it if he told me what it was beforehand? Probably not. Now I love the stuff!

I had the honour to give a eulogy at his funeral. My emotions ran high. I felt extreme sadness, grief and at times, anger. My tribute ran 18 minutes, a tad long, but that’s the time it took for me to get it all out. It felt good.

He was a healthy 70 years old and was taken from us much too soon.

He fought for the freedoms that I enjoy today and will in the future. A lifetime of thanks could never amount to the sacrifices he had made in his career. His dedication and commitment to this country will not go unnoticed.

Ninong, I salute you.

Dale manages the communications department for a school district in BC.

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