Blue Berets to make pilgrimage

Terry Roberts
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Former peacekeepers to return to Cyprus in May to visit graves of fallen Canadians

A group of former Canadian Forces peacekeepers, including a handful from this province, are making plans to return to Cyprus this spring on a pilgrimage to visit the graves of their fallen comrades and witness the changes that have taken place on the troubled Mediterranean island.

The 10-day trip begins May 14 and is being organized by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association. Garry Best, president of the association's Newfoundland and Labrador division, came up with the idea.

Garry Best

A group of former Canadian Forces peacekeepers, including a handful from this province, are making plans to return to Cyprus this spring on a pilgrimage to visit the graves of their fallen comrades and witness the changes that have taken place on the troubled Mediterranean island.

The 10-day trip begins May 14 and is being organized by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association. Garry Best, president of the association's Newfoundland and Labrador division, came up with the idea.

It will be his first time back to Cyprus since serving there with the Blue Berets - a term often used to describe United Nations peacekeepers - in 1972.

"Cyprus is a beautiful place. It will be nice to go back and see how things worked out," Best said.

Best believes it's the first such pilgrimage by a group of former Canadian soldiers to a country where they served as peacekeepers.

So far, some 15 veterans and their spouses have committed to making the journey. Three of them - Best and Wayne Miller of Conception Bay South, and Ed Dicks of St. John's - are from this province.

Best said there is room for many more, and is inviting former peacekeepers who may be interested in making the trip to get in contact with him. The all-inclusive cost is $2,800 for a couple, and $3,050 for a single traveller. Best explained it's cheaper for a couple because they share accommodations.

This fee covers travel from St. John's to Cyprus, and meals and accommodations.

Hundreds of soldiers with roots in this province served in Cyprus from 1964 to 1993.

The association is seeking help from the provincial government to assist those who may not be able to afford the trip, Best said.

There are five tours planned during the trip, including visits to the gravesites of Canadian soldiers. Of the 28 Canadians killed in Cyprus, it's believed that 16 were buried on the island.

One of those is Cpl. Otto (Tyke) Redmond of St. John's, who was killed in a vehicle accident there in 1967. Best is also reaching out to the families of those killed in Cyprus, and invites them to come along as well.

The veterans will inspect the graves and lay wreaths, Best added.

A representative of the Department of National Defence or Veterans Affairs Canada is also expected to make the journey. Best hopes the pilgrimage will be the first of many to destinations where Canadians have served as peacekeepers, including Egypt, Syria and the Balkans.

"It's something that needs to be done," he said. "The general public has never really embraced peacekeepers as doing anything extraordinary, but we believe we have."

Garry Best can be reached by phone at 834-1434, or e-mail at newfoundlandpeacekeepers@hotmail.com.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Forces, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, Newfoundland and Labrador division United Nations Department of National Defence Veterans Affairs Canada

Geographic location: Cyprus, St. John's, Mediterranean island Egypt Syria Balkans

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  • Angelica
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Wish you all the best in getting any funding from this government! Noble cause, though.

  • Angelica
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Wish you all the best in getting any funding from this government! Noble cause, though.