Son of army medic talks of his respect for his mom and the flag
Alexei Allison gave a speech at his school about how important it is for people to respect the Canadian flag, a lesson taught to him by his mom, Sgt. Karri Allison
(shown in photo). — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
For 11-year-old Alexei Allison, the nation’s flag is more than just an emblem to plaster on Canada Day merchandise.
“As the son of a soldier, I’ve been growing up with my mom teaching me that you should always respect the nation’s flag, and every time I go out in public I always notice something that’s disrespecting (it),” Alexei said.
Alexei shared his concern in a speech he gave at his elementary school, Lakecrest Independent School, this spring.
“A country’s flag may be just a piece of coloured cloth to some, but its intent is to represent so much more,” Alexei said to his audience.
“For those who have fought battles to defend their country and countries that have asked for their help, the flag stands for all that they have sacrificed and sought to protect.”
Later, in the living room of his grandparents’
St. John’s house, the soft-spoken boy shared some details of his life as the son of a single mother and combat medic in the Canadian Armed Forces.
His nomadic childhood is not uncommon for a military child, especially one with a single parent. He has moved each time his mother was transferred from one base to another, and often stays with his grandparents during her tours of duty.
“The provinces I’ve been in are Nova Scotia, Ontario, B.C., Alberta and here,” Alexei said.
Three years is the longest time he’s spent in a single place.
“I’d have to say Nova Scotia would be my favourite. Most of my family actually lives there. The longest I’ve probably ever stayed at one place was there. And I had a lot of friends.”
As a medic, Alexei’s mother, Sgt. Karri Allison, is posted to a different base every two years. Because of her frequent deployment, she has also been away from her son for long periods — this time, Alexei has been living with his grandparents for two years.
Alexei hasn’t seen his mother since she was deployed to Afghanistan for the third time last August.
“I’m 11 now, and I think she’s only been to two or three of my birthdays and one or two Mother’s Days,” Alexei said. “Normally, when we are together, we don’t really do much together. It’s more just relaxing and being with each other. We don’t get to see each other a lot.”
Alexei’s grandmother Heather Allison is troubled by the lack of awareness Canadians have about the strained lives of soldiers and their children.
“Alexei started walking (while Karri was deployed). She was devastated,” Heather Allison said.
“People don’t realize how much is missed. I think if they knew, they’d maybe shake that soldier’s hand when they see them, or be a little more about getting them help when they need it. We have wounded and injured coming back that are fighting to get what’s rightfully theirs, to be looked after. These (military) kids see how the country treats their soldiers, and it’s hard.”
According to his grandmother, Alexei has also been met with various jabs about his mother’s occupation over the years.
“Alexei’s had a few comments made about, you know, your mother shouldn’t be over there,” Heather Allison said.
“But his mother’s always said to him, ‘We protect this country. We serve this country so that they have their rights. We may not agree with what they say, but they have the right to say it.’”
Alexei did not tell stories about hurtful remarks, but noted that there isn’t much celebration of those, like his mother, who put their lives on the line for Canada.
“What I’ve noticed is I’ve seen on Canada Day, none of it is mainly about the military,” Alexei
“Same with Remembrance Day. I’ve noticed that a lot of it isn’t really about the soldiers, which is what Remembrance Day is supposed to be about. It’s more about world peace and nothing about the soldiers. I think they should, kind of, also celebrate the soldiers, but they don’t really do it.”
His grandmother echoed this concern in other terms.
“I don’t think Canadians talk, especially in schools, about our military, our soldiers,” she said.
“I think children are — they just don’t know. It’s not something we’re open about as a country, which I think is a shame for children of soldiers, because it’s almost like they’re afraid to talk. They’re proud of their parents, but they shy away from talking about it because it just doesn’t appear to be acceptable.”
Alexei is leaving Newfoundland and his friends at Lakecrest Independent School in August, and moving to the military base in Borden, Ont., to see his mom at the end of her tour.
He hopes that some people here have taken the things he’s shared to heart.
“(My mom) taught me that you should never walk on a flag. You should never drag it on the floor. It should never really touch the floor, and if it gets dirty or torn it should be burned respectfully,” Alexei said.
“To me and my family, Canada Day mainly means the respect of your country, and the respect of your country’s flag and their customs.”
Alexei hopes his mother might be with him a little bit longer in Ontario.
“But she could be deployed again. We just don’t know,” Heather Allison said.
“(Alexei) wants her to promise that she won’t go back to Afghanistan again, or any war zone. But he also knows ... that (promise) might not keep.”