A combat chef and a military carpenter from the Sturgeon County region have received medals from the Governor General for their work as volunteers.
Bob Peterson of the Morinville Legion and Darren Longstaff of the Gibbons Legion were awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers earlier this year from the Governor General.
The medal recognizes volunteers who have made significant, sustained, and unpaid contributions to their community in Canada or abroad. It features a red, blue, and gold striped ribbon with a silver medal that shows Queen Elizabeth II on one side and two interlaced hearts on the other.
Peterson, 58, is a Morinville resident and is the district commander for District 8 for the Alberta-NWT Command Legion. He received his medal May 8 from Command President John Mahon during a Legion convention in Red Deer.
Peterson served 17 years with the Canadian armed forces in Calgary, Ottawa, Shilo, Cyprus, Haiti, and the Northwest Territories. He was a military carpenter, which is basically a carpenter who can also fight wars.
“We basically do building repairs,” he explained, adding that he is now employed as a civilian carpenter at the Edmonton Garrison.
Peterson said he joined the Legion in 2005 and helped rebuild and remodel the decks and basement of the Morinville Legion building. As a district commander, he helps organize about 21 Legion offices in western Alberta. He is also active with the UN-NATO veteran’s club, which collects toys for kids at Christmas and hosts barbecues at the Kipnes Centre for Veterans in Edmonton.
Morinville Legion sports officer and long-time friend Phil Morrow said Peterson is an excellent supporter of the community and has brought many new members to the branch. Peterson is always ready to march in the colour guard at parades or regale you with tales of army life.
Peterson said he learned he would be getting this medal about a month ago.
“At first I thought it was one of those scam calls,” he said, but he eventually realized the call was legit.
Peterson said he was humbled and honoured by this award, which he chose to get at the Legion convention, as most of his volunteer work is through that organization.
“I’ve never thought I’ve done enough for something like that.”
He said he plans to keep volunteering for the Legion for as long as he can, and feels his late father would be proud of him for carrying on a family tradition.
“The Legion’s always been important to me,” he said, and he feels he has accomplished something whenever he helps someone through it.
“It fulfills me, I guess.”
Longstaff, 55, lives in Gibbons and is president of the town’s Legion branch. He served roughly 20 years as a cook with the military, slinging hot meals and ration packs in Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.
“We’ve cooked everything from bacon and eggs to high-end dinners,” he said, and they’re skilled enough to apply to become Red Seal chefs.
Longstaff retired from the military in 2008 and now works as a paramedic, having previously served as a volunteer firefighter. He volunteers for the Legion, St. John Ambulance, the UN-NATO veteran’s club, and other groups.
“I’ve been sticking my nose in just about everything I can,” he joked.
Longstaff got notice of his award in June 2021 and received it from Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani on March 16, 2022. (He had planned to have it mailed, but wanted to give his wife and father a chance to attend a medal ceremony.)
Longstaff said he enjoys volunteering, and takes pride in doing things for others.
“To be able to help veterans who are in need, it’s a fulfilling kind of feeling.”
Visit www.gg.ca for details on the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.