All you need to do to get a feel for how much Allen “Al” Cameron means to the Army Navy Air Force Veterans (ANAVETS) and the community of Moose Jaw, Sask., in general is take a look at some of the people who showed up for his 97th birthday party this past May.

“Different Lives”

Moose Jaw Mayor Clive Tolley and MLAs Tim McLeod and Greg Lawrence were just a few of the dignitaries who stopped by to honour the Second World War veteran during the come-and-go gathering at the ANAVETS club.

"If it wasn’t for Al and the veterans, we’d be living different lives.” DON PURINGTON

The festivities were a natural fit, not only because of Al’s legacy as an airman during the Second World War but as an honour for an ANAVETS veteran when so many of those who fought in the war are passing on, says president Don Purington.

“They fought, and they gave their lives,” he says. “Us being a veterans’ club, when I started five years ago there were 23, and now they’re fading off and fading off. That’s why this is so special. We should have done it a couple of years ago, but then trouble hit with COVID, so now it’s time to start recognizing these gentlemen more than we do. If it wasn’t for Al and the veterans, we’d be living different lives.”

Stunned and Grateful

Al was joined by his children, Brett Cameron from Halifax and Cindy Gummeson from Nanaimo, B.C. Both made the trip to be part of the festivities, which came as a complete surprise to Al himself when they arrived earlier in the week.

“They came all that way, and I had no idea,” Al says as folks milled about, stopping to offer congratulations and have a chat. “It’s absolutely nice to be able to see them again.”

Al himself thought he was just stopping in for a visit at the club, but was regaled with “Happy Birthday” the moment he, Cindy and Brett walked through the door, with “97” balloons joined by signs and streamers honouring his birthday.

“I was stunned,” Al says with a smile when asked about his reaction. “I’m deeply grateful. But this is fantastic.”

“It’s Not Just Me”

It was hard for Al not to become emotional when a special gift was unveiled during the party—it was only a few months ago that Al received a special certificate, commemorative pin and letter acknowledging his Second World War service from the Canadian government, and he made the decision to have the awards displayed in the ANAVETS clubhouse.

The club unveiled the special matte-style mounting plaque that will hang in the building for everyone to see.

Al is joined by friends and family before cutting his birthday cake. Al’s children Cindy Gummeson and Brett Cameron, standing to his left and right, travelled from British Columbia and Nova Scotia, respectively, to be part of the celebration

“A Wonderful Man”

On top of his service, Don felt honouring Al was fitting just because of the kind of person he is.

“You could go to any room and if you feel out of place, if Al’s there, he’ll make you feel like you’re in place,” he says. “He has that kind of aura around him; he’s a special, special man. And there’s not enough we can do for him or any of the veterans. Just doing this is a good start, a good recognition.”

Salvation Army pastor Lieutenant Lester Ward also delivered greetings for Al, a longtime parishioner at the local church. Lieutenant Lester made special mention of Al’s singing and engagement in the services as well as his position as a valuable part of the Salvation Army community.

Longtime friend Arlene Ayles was happy to see the ANAVETS putting such effort into honouring Al, especially in his later years.

“I know Al is so honoured when the Army Navy Air Force Veterans do things like this for him,” she says. “It’s really touching to see that, because it makes him feel so special. And I know for us it feels like we can’t do enough, not just for Al but all the veterans, but it’s nice to be able to do something like this for such a wonderful man.”

To learn more about Al’s war service, visit

Reprinted from Moose Jaw Express/, May 22, 2022

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