In Their Own Voices – Exploring the Impact of Military Service

November 20, 2023

Canadian Army veteran Bruce Moncur almost died on September 4, 2006, during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan, when American aircraft mistakenly strafed a Canadian position and left Moncur with a devastating head injury.

Bruce Moncur

Bruce Moncur, Southern Afghanistan in 2006 – Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Moncur

Moncur now describes September 4 as his “Alive Day.”

“My Alive Day is that fork in the road,” he said. “It changed my life. Everything I have — my sons, my partner — comes from that day. Your life is going one direction, then changes dramatically.”

Moncur spoke with me as part of the Canadian War Museum’s In Their Own Voices oral history project about the Canadian veteran’s experience. Our goal is to better understand the many ways — both subtle and profound — that military service shapes the lives of veterans and their loved ones, and how those veterans in turn shape Canada itself.

Since launching the project last year, we have travelled across the country and have interviewed nearly 200 veterans and their family members, from 103-year-old Second World War veterans to younger men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The stories we have heard are rich and diverse, reflecting the many different backgrounds and experiences of veterans in Canada.

Al Jones

Al Jones – Photo Credit: Still from In Their Own Voices Oral History Project, Canadian War Museum, 2023

For Al Jones, Honorary Colonel of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters in Barrie, ON, the military legacy of a relative he never met has influenced him since he was a boy.

His great-grandfather was Jeremiah Jones, a Black Canadian who charged a German machine-gun nest at Vimy Ridge. Although Jeremiah got little public recognition at the time, his story was passed down through the family. Al says the lesson he absorbed from learning about Jeremiah was: “Be very proud of who you are, because you and your family have contributed to the fabric of Canada for many generations.”

Collectively, the stories we are gathering show that the impact of war and military service continues long after a veteran’s service ends in ways that are intimate and far reaching. While no two veterans’ experiences are the same, many common themes emerge, even between veterans of different wars and different eras.

The In Their Own Voices team will continue to interview veterans and loved ones throughout the coming year. We are now also working on an online educational portal that will launch in the fall of 2024, and a book and conference that will follow soon after. We are uncovering history that has often been hidden and overlooked but is an integral element of conflict and military life. We cannot wait to share it with you.

Dr. Michael Petrou
Historian, Veterans’ Experience
Canadian War Museum