Espanola’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #39 recently celebrated its annual Honours and Awards Night in late October. The evening marked years of membership, recognition of members and the wider community.

Jill Fairbairn says the family was especially honoured that her father, Blaise MacKenzie, received his pin for 60 years of membership with the Legion.

She shared a bit of the family history her father shared with her, especially his pride in his older brothers.

“Blaise had four older brothers Joseph, John, Colin and Angus who served in World War II. A fifth brother, Alex also joined up in three different arms of the Canadian Forces.

“He wanted to go overseas so badly but had epilepsy. He would not share that information when he went through the recruiting process, but inevitably he would have an episode and be discharged from service, but not before serving in the militia, army and air force before being found out, as it were.”

Fairbairn says the MacKenzie Family is so honoured with the sacrifice of their uncles in the wars and proud of their father who served in the navy.

“We were also amazed how Mary, my grandmother and the mother of 13 children could have coped with the stress of sending four of her sons to war. She was a very strong woman.”

Fairbairn says her grandparents were Mary and John MacKenzie of Antigonish Nova Scotia.

“At the time of the war all five boys signed up from their hometown of Antigonish. Uncle Joe was only 16 when he joined up with his four older brothers.

“After the war John MacKenzie Junior move to Sudbury where he raised his family. John passed at the age of 86 in January 2006.

“Joseph passed in 2016 at the age of 92.

“The youngest brother, my father, Blaise moved to Espanola 1968 and stayed here to raise all seven of us.”

Fairbairn says she is astounded by the depth of sacrifice and love of country her family has for Canada.

“There is so much military in the family and the sacrifices my dad’s family made. We are so humble to be part of it.

“My uncles would not really talk about their experiences during that time, but I was always curious. Dad would share some memories, but our uncles did not talk about the war. I wanted to talk to them about their other experiences, the people they met, the bonds they forged, the friends made and lost. To this day, it still astounds me what these young boys, and they were boys, went through.

“We are honoured, and Dad is too for the to support from and being a part of the Legion, a place that remembers the service so many of our veterans provided, Dad being one of them. Thank you for honouring his service.”