May 4, 2021. On February 18, 2020, while we were in Florida for our winter vacation, I went to the movies with a few friends. We went to see a ‘chick flick’, a film not of interest to any of our husbands, including Pieter. While I was away, Pieter got a phone call from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, advising that he had been nominated for the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers and this was approved by the Governor General. Would he be willing to accept it? (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign%27s_Medal_for_Volunteers)
A very surprised Pieter said it would be an honour. We all know what happened next…. Covid put a stop to any events, and the ceremony was postponed. Almost 14 months later, Pieter got a call from the Events Coordinator at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. Would he be willing to have a virtual presentation ceremony? The answer was yes.
On April 30, 2021, Pieter Valkenburg was presented with the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal For Volunteers, for his ongoing research to uncover the stories and photos of those who served in WW1 and WW2, and sharing his research findings with the public. (See https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/342-116665)
The insignia was presented to him by the Hon. Catherine Callbeck, CM, OPEI, LLD, on behalf of His Excellency the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Administrator of the Government of Canada, via a virtual private ceremony.
Pieter thanks those who helped with this research project….
Given the shortness of the ceremony, Pieter was unable to thank everyone who has helped with the On The War Memorial Trail research project. So here is what Pieter asked to be included in this posting:
“…I am deeply humbled by this honour. Thank you to those who nominated me and supported this nomination.
I started this project to offer my gratitude to Canada for liberating country of my birth. As a Canadian, I wanted to honour those soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice and the families that lost their loved ones.
My volunteerism would have never been possible without the support of many people and I would like to mention some of them. First and foremost, my wife Daria, who makes sure that a blog about my research is written, YouTube videos are posted, a Twitter account is maintained, and articles are written and published.
I would also like to thank Mike and Isabel Smith of The County Line Courier who have given us enormous support and published all the articles that my wife wrote.
Thank you to Angela Walker of CBC radio in Charlottetown, as well as CBC radio in Moncton and Halifax, CBC Radio-Canada in Moncton, and CTV Atlantic’s Live At Five. Their support provided platforms to ask for the public’s help in researching soldiers.
This project initially began with 48 names on a Cenotaph and has expanded to cover soldiers in Atlantic provinces. I thank the many Legion members in the Atlantic provinces who have helped fulfill photo requests.
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 in Borden-Carleton is commended for its willingness to create a wall of honour with pictures of the WW1 and WW2 soldiers that we have researched and that are mentioned on their Cenotaph.
One of the names on this Cenotaph was that of a 23 year old WW2 pilot from PEI. He died but saved his crew and the village of Wons in The Netherlands by choosing to stay with his plane after it was shot down.
With the help and cooperation of the Tryon and Area Historical Society on Prince Edward Island, and the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation in The Netherlands, a memorial panel for this pilot and his crew was installed in 2019 near the crash site.
I would like to thank the many families that donated pictures and stories about relatives who served. These contacts have been heartwarming and have enriched our lives. We were able to meet a number of them, and are honoured by the gratitude they’ve shown that their relatives are not forgotten.
Over the years, we have visited Vimy Ridge, Menin Gate, and many cemeteries in France, Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands to pay our respects to the soldiers that we have researched and written about and to honour them by placing small Canadian and provincial flags at their graves.
These flags were provided by the offices of Senator Mike Duffy, our federal Member of Parliament, Wayne Easter, and our provincial Member of the Legislative Assembly, Jamie Fox.
During these visits we met many other volunteers, who devote their time to make sure that the sacrifice made by the soldiers will never be forgotten, such as research volunteers for the three Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands. Presently I’m assisting them in finding photos and non-military information for soldiers from the Maritimes.
Remembrance of those who gave their lives for our continued freedom is important, and no soldier buried overseas should ever be forgotten. My research work will continue. Thank you….”
The ceremony was very emotional and touching, and as a very proud wife, I was delighted that Pieter received this award. I’m extremely proud of him for his incredible work in bringing history to life by telling the stories of individuals who served in WW1 and WW2.
Comments on Pieter receiving the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers….
As people have learned of this award, several took the time to contact Pieter. Here are a few of the comments:
Mike and Isabel Smith, Publishers of the County Line Courier: “Congratulations on receiving the Sovereigns Medal For Volunteers. What an accomplishment.
The award appropriately reflects your passion and the endless hours you have spent making phone calls, researching and following leads to recover and secure information and photographs of veterans whose stories might have been forgotten and lost.
Your dedication honours the service and sacrifices of these veterans who served their country.
On behalf of The County Line Courier Community Newspaper, congratulations and keep up the good work.”
Susan and Charlie Choi: “Congratulations Pieter!!!!!!! Very exciting news and very well deserved!”
Mieke de Bie: “It is a great honour for him. He may be proud of it because he deserves it! It happens not everyday… I am excited too, and also proud of our cousin.”
Marjorie Inman: “Thank you Pieter for your many years of devotion to this worthwhile project.”
Rheal Leger and Simone Belliveau: “Congratulations to Pieter. That’s a major honour for a great continuation of his project. Outstanding work Pieter!”
Alexander Tuinhout, Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation: “Congratulations Pieter! Receiving this medal is not only an honour, but also a public recognition of the important work that the both of you do and have done already. Commemorating the fallen during both World Wars is not only about history, but also about connecting people and keeping the memories alive.”
Brien and Moira Robertson: “Congratulations for your award. It is such an honor. Everyone is proud of you. It is a wonderful achievement and the fallen dead were very honored through your achievements.”
Remco and Barbara de Jong: “Woooow, congratulations on this extraordinary award and recognition. And in my opinion no more than is deserved. Not that you are doing this great job to get a medal but for the gratitude of the next of kin. That their loved ones didn’t sacrifice for nothing in the end. Pieter and Daria stay healthy and especially continue with this great work. With congratulations from Fryske Makkum.”
Lina and Sergio Canonico: “Congratulations Pieter for your dedication and perseverance to this project. It was a true labour of love and one that has meant so much to those families that have lost their loved ones. Lest they never be forgotten. May the good Lord bless you.”
Thank you to the Events Coordination and IT team for the Chancellery of Honours, part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, for arranging the ceremony. The Canadian and PEI provincial flags were provided by Annie Lee and Elmer MacDonald, who were able to temporarily borrow them from their church. Thank you to Catherine Callbeck for presenting the insignia on behalf of the Administrator of the Government of Canada. And a huge thank you to those who nominated and supported Pieter for this award.
The On The War Memorial Trail project continues. If you have photos or information to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg