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'It never gets any easier' bittersweet day at The Hangar Flight Museum

Last Updated Nov 12, 2017 at 6:34 am MDT

Second World War bomber pilot Jack Hilton shakes hands with those in attendance at The Hangar Flight Museum's Remembrance Day Service. Nov. 11, 2017. (Reporter Crystal Laderas)

“Every year it gets worse. You remember more things,” said Jack Hilton, a former Hawker Typhoon fighter pilot in the Second World War.

Now in his 90s, Hilton sat near the entrance of the The Hangar Flight Museum on Saturday, shaking hands with some of the 1000 people who would attend an outdoor Remembrance Day service. He told stories and was often interrupted by those who said hello and thank you. At one point he scolds a young man from the 88 Lynx Air Cadet Squadron.

“Hi young fellow […] don’t walk by without saying hello,” said Hilton to the cadet.
“These air cadets, they really, really look after me,” he explained.

Like Hilton, other veterans said it was a bittersweet day.

“Last year, I lost a friend at Cold Lake,” said Honorary Col. John Melbourne. “He was flying a demonstration aircraft at the air show and he crashed and he was killed. You know it hits and somebody said to me, ‘John, you’ve seen this before’ and yeah I’ve seen it before but it never gets any easier.”

The Royal Canadian Air Force pilot worked in search and rescue, a job that often involved tragedy.
“We use to drop the SARTECS in, which is the search and rescue paratrooper going into the crash site, they used to see some pretty horrendous scenes,” he said.

For retired Canadian Forces Sgt. John Bertram, his time serving provided his life’s worst and best memories. His fondest come from an annual parade in Germany, where allied soldiers were free to have their share of German beer while they walked the parade route.

“You could just go up, have a beer and let the rest of the guys play. Finish you’re beer, get out, join,” he said. “In almost four years nobody I’ve known finished that parade.”

Despite the flashbacks or tearful memories, veterans such as Jack Hilton look forward to seeing new generations connect with veterans.

“It’s great to see the recognition that they give,” said Hilton about the cadets. “It’s very emotional at times but it’s very enjoyable to see that young people are doing what they are doing.”