Last Message from Col Cmdt BGen (Ret) O’Keefe

by | Oct 30, 2021 | News | 7 comments

TO OUR C&E BRANCH MEMBERS – SERVING AND RETIRED

LATE LAST MONTH ON 28 OCT DURING C&E WEEK I HANDED OVER MY COL CMDT DUTIES TO BGEN (RETIRED) JOSEE ROBIDOUX, OMM,CD. WHAT FOLLOWS IS A FEW MOMENTS OF REFLECTION ON THE PAST THREE YEARS AND LONGER.

IT WAS IN SEP 1971 THAT I FIRST PUT ON MY CAF UNIFORM AND 50 YEARS LATER IN OCT 2021 I TOOK IT OFF FOR THE LAST TIME. DURING THOSE 50 YEARS I HAVE SERVED AS BRANCH LEADER, PRESIDENT OF OUR MUSEUM FOUNDATION, PRESIDENT OF OUR C&E ASSOCIATION AND NOW AS COLONEL COMMANDANT. SO I HAVE SEEN OUR C&E FAMILY FROM MANY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES.

I HAVE BEEN TRULY HONOURED AND HUMBLED TO SERVE AS YOUR COLONEL COMMANDANT. IT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY MILITARY CAREER AND JUST TO BE ON THE SAME LIST WITH NAMES LIKE GENET, CLARK, WEBBER, BANKS AND RICHARD IS A RATHER HUMBLING EXPERIENCE.

MY GOAL WHEN I WAS APPOINTED COLONEL COMMANDANT IN 2018 WAS TO RAISE THE PROFILE OF THE APPOINTMENT WITH OUR SERVING MEMBERS. YOUR BRANCH CHIEF CWO PHILIBERT AND I OUTLINED A PLAN THAT WOULD HAVE HAD US VISIT EVERY UNIT OF OUR BRANCH DURING OUR THREE YEAR TENURE. COVID CERTAINLY DERAILED THOSE PLANS. WE DID GET TO VISIT 31 SIGS IN HAMILTON, 36 SIGS IN HALIFAX, 12 AND 14 WINGS IN SHEARWATER AND GREENWOOD RESPECTIVELY AND CFIOG – CFS LEITRIM AND CFNOC. I ALSO WAS ABLE TO OBSERVE EXERCISES WITH 38, 39 SIGS AND 1 SIGS IN WINNIPEG AND HERE IN KINGSTON WITH 31,32 AND 33 SIGS.

EVEN WITH THAT LIMITED SAMPLE I CAN TELL YOU RIGHT NOW THAT OUR BRANCH IS IN GREAT HANDS. I WAS THOROUGLY IMPRESSED WITH THE PROFESSIONALISM, DEDICATION AND ENTHUSIASM OF OUR SERVING MEMBERS. YOU ARE PERFORMING MARVELLOUSLY AND WITH DISTINCTION – DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY.

ON THE VETERAN SIDE I HAVE TRIED TO MAINTAIN CONTACT WITH OUR SURVIVING WWII VETERANS. I HAD THE HONOUR OF SPEAKING WITH SIGNALMAN JOHN BOYD ON HIS 108TH BIRTHDAY IN FEB. JOHN WAS THE OLDEST SURVIVING WW II VETERAN. UNFORTUANATELY, HE PASSED AWAY EARLIER THIS FALL. AS DID BASIL BROSSO WHO RESIDED NEAR HERE IN GANANOQUE. BASIL HAD JUST CELEBRATED HIS 100TH BIRTHDAY IN MAY.

WE STILL HAVE FIVE SURVIVING VETERANS…HUGH PATTERSON IN HAMILTON, ORVIN MARTIN AND RUSSELL THOMPSON IN SEELEYS BAY, JOE BURKE IN SYDNEY AND DOUG RICKARD IN BURLINGTON – A DIEPPE VETERAN. PLEASE KEEP THEM IN YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.

DURING THE PAST THREE YEARS WE WERE ABLE TO IMPLEMENT A NEW GOVERNANCE MODEL FOR OUR BRANCH WITH THE STANDUP OF OUR C&E SENATE AND OUR MUSEUM BOARD OF DIRECTORS. COLLECTIVELY WE A HUGE DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO BGEN (RETIRED) BOB MARTINEAU FOR THE INCREDILBE AMOUNT OF WORK THAT HE DID IN BRINGING THESE NEW STRUCTURES INTO BEING.

NETHERLANDS 2020/22 …AS MOST OF YOU WILL KNOW WE ATTEMPTED TO BRING A CADRE OF SERVING MEMBERS AND OTHERS TO THE NETHERLANDS TO CELEBRATE AND COMMEMORATE THE 75TH ANNIVERSARAY OF THEIR LIBERATION. ONCE AGAIN COVID PUT A KIBOSH TO THAT PLAN. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK JIM HOLSWORTH, BOB TAYLOR AND PETER SHEREMETA FOR ALL THEIR WORK IN PUTTING THE ORIGINAL PLAN IN PLACE. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN AN EXCEPTIONAL EVENT. IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT THEY WILL NOT GET TO EXPERIENCE THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOURS. HOWEVER, HUGH JANSSEN AND HIS TEAM HAVE PICKED UP THE MANTEL AND WE PLAN ON DELIVERING THE BATTLEFIELD STUDY IN 2022. I AM HAPPY TO SAY THAT WE NOW HAVE 43 C&E MEMBERS SIGNED UP REPRESENTING EVERY SIGNAL UNIT AND C&E FORMATION ACROSS CANADA – FROM ST. JOHN’S TO VANCOUVER. THANK YOU HUGH AND TEAM.

I CANNOT DEPART WITHOUT MENTIONING THE VINTAGE SIGNALS TEAM. THE VINTAGE SIGNAL TEAM IS LOCATED IN THE HAMILTON AREA AND PROVIDE EDUCATIONAL DISPLAYS AND EXHIBITIONS THROUGHOUT ONTARIO TO CADET ORGANIZATIONS AND INTERNATIONALLY TO EDUCATIONAL YOUTH GROUPS. HCOL KEN LLOYD AND HIS MERRY BAND OF MEN AND WOMEN CONTINUE TO KEEP THE SIGNAL LEGACY AND HERITAGE ALIVE AMONG THE PUBLIC AND ESPECIALLY OUR YOUNG GENERATION.

TO OUR HONORARY COLONELS AND LIEUTENTANT COLONELS…WE HAVE AN INCREDIBLE COLLECTION OF HONORARY APPOINTMENTS THROUGHOUT OUR BRANCH. THEY ARE PROVIDING MENTORSHIP AND COUNSEL TO OUR LEADERSHIP TEAMS. ALL PLAY A PROMINENT ROLE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND FORM A BRIDGE BETWEEN OUR MILITARY AND THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITY. THANK YOU FOR TAKING ON THIS IMPORTANT ROLE FOR OUR C&E FAMILY.

AND TO THE BRANCH LEADERSHIP – THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO SERVE AS COLONEL COMMANDANT AND THE SUPPORT THAT YOU HAVE PROVIDED ME. TO ALL THE BRANCH STAFF – DUSTIN CRAIG, TETIANA WINCHESTER AND LATELY TERRY CADIEUX AND SIMON GRANT – YOU INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY HAVE MADE MY JOB NOT ONLY EASIER BUT ENJOYABLE. THE BRANCH COULD NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT YOUR DEDICATION AND EXPERTISE. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – YOU HAVE A REMARKABLE BRANCH ADJUTANT – MAJOR BLAIR CHRISTIE – HE IS THE HEART AND SOUL OF OUR BRANCH AND THE EPITOME OF A PROFESSIONAL OFFICER AND WE ARE EXTREMELY LUCKY TO HAVE HAD HIM AS OUR BRANCH ADJUTANT OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS.

TO BGEN ROBIDOUX…WELCOME TO THE CLUB. YOU ARE OUR 16TH C&E BRANCH COL CMDT. YOU ARE THE RIGHT PERSON AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR OUR C&E BRANCH. ENJOY THE NEXT FEW YEARS AND I HOPE YOU GET THE OPPORTUNITY (COVID PERMITTING) TO SEE FIRSTHAND THE INCREDIBLE TALENT AND PROFESSIONALISM THAT EXISTS WITHIN OUR BRANCH. WE HAVE SOME REMARKABLE PEOPLE ACCOMPLISHING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.

NOW AFTER 50 YEARS IF YOU WILL ALLOW ME ONE FINAL THOUGHT WITH APOLOGIES TO ERNEST HEMINGWAY…IN FAREWELL TO ARMS HE SAYS ‘WHEN YOU LOVE YOU WISH TO DO THINGS FOR. YOU WISH TO SACRIFICE FOR. YOU WISH TO SERVE.’ AND THAT IS ALL I HAVE TRIED TO DO FOR MY BRANCH, OUR MILITARY AND OUR COUNTRY OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS – TO DO, TO SACRIFICE AND TO SERVE. AS OUR ARTILLERY FRIENDS SAY…ROUNDS COMPLETE – END OF MISSION. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. O’KEEFE SENDS.

Subscribe
Notify of
7 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
BGen (ret) Martin Girard
1 year ago

Bravo Kevin. You have been an incredible leader for our Branch for so long. Thank you again for giving all to the Branch and their members. Merci encore une fois

BGen (Ret) RK (Bob) Martineau
1 year ago

Mon cher ami Kevin,

I know a small part of the many things that you have undertaken as our Col Cmdt and on behalf of the C&E Family – often against significant head winds – and have persevered where many others would have demurred. Rest assured that while many but not necessarily all may be aware of your simply incredible and indefatigable work, whether they know it or not, the C&E Family is only very very much the better because of you and all that you have done in a vital leadership role.

As our naval colleagues would say, BRAVO ZULU for your incredible contributions. You will be indeed a hard act to follow.

Allen Batchelar
1 year ago

Not bad. You may have a future.
It has been a long time old comrade, but in so many ways it seems like yesterday.

gerry garceau
1 year ago

Well Sir you were amazing in your duties. It was a pleasure for me to work under your leadership while we were in Germany. I still remember and talk about our trip 30 yrs ago when we did inspections in Middle East. Just reminding you that there is one more WWII veteran that you didn’t mention, she is Elsa Lessard, I talk often with her and she still in good spirit. God bless her. I just want to say so long may new adventures in your retirement be full of happiness. I salute you Sir…

Frances L Arbuckle
1 year ago

Certainly was a pleasure to have had you as a special guest at our Atlantic Signals Reunion. Sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement to the fullest. Take the very best of care.

Terry Murphy
1 year ago

Kevin
I have only one thing to say and that is THANK YOU. I salute you for your service and your dedication to our CORPS and BRANCH, you served us well.

Michael Conway
1 year ago

Thank you for your service , Sir. It was an honour to serve with you in Radio Troop, 4 Sigs in Germany.
Thanks again for all you did for our branch. VVV