Robbie Robertson recently moved to Elliot Lake and discovering the beauty of the North, but at the same time, people are also discovering there is a lot more to this veteran than just serving.
He has a wide and varied career having served from 1969 to 1978, as a peacekeeper, paratrooper, and even security.
“I did two tours in Cyprus back in 1972 and 1974 during the Turkish Cypriot War, was part of the United Nations Peacekeeping with the Canadian Airborne Regiment, 2 Commando Echo Company, provided security at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and following that up with a stint in Germany with NATO,” recalls Robertson. Asked if he was ever afraid to jump, he smiled saying, “nope, too much fun. Would love to do it again and again. You don’t think of that when you are up there … you just do.”
He says what is most memorable for him is the comradeship of serving and the lifetime friends that can only come out of such tough conditions.
“Training to be a professional soldier in all terrains, all four seasons, patrolling, snowshoeing, skiing at -53c in Alaska, pulling a sled, sleeping under canvas, then switch to 40c in the Middle East wearing flak vest, steel helmets, dressed for battle is something not easily forgotten. And observing bombing and sorties, troop movements, the impact of artillery and ricochets of bullets in the air, that is not forgotten either, but the lifelong comradeship is what made it all worthwhile.
Robertson has chosen a unique way to remember those days … he paints.
“I started painting two years ago in Elephant Butte RV Park in New Mexico,” he recalls. “That’s where we like to go as snowbirds.
“The park asked residents to paint a picture of their pet and leave it on the dog run. Before that request, I never so much as drawn a figure or scene. Since then I’ve painted lots of stones, self taught. Tip being if it doesn’t look right, erase it again and again if necessary. I really like it.”
He has taken that skill a step further using photos to paint rocks and slabs acknowledging the contributions of veterans and others who have served. Some of the paintings featuring planes and poppies commemorate Remembrance Day.
Like his counterparts, Robertson will spend tomorrow in remembrance of his comrades and those who made the ultimate sacrifice over the decades. As for the painting, he plans to also continue developing his skills and painting his memories for a long time to come.
Photos provided by Robbie Robertson