A Parksville veteran and his son were pleased to honour surviving D-Day soldiers on the battle fields where they fought for liberation of German-occupied France 75 years earlier.
On June 6, Kevin Pavan, a retired soldier who served in Bosnia in 2003 and Afghanistan as a combat engineer, and his 13-year-old son Laken Pavan, who attends Springwood Elementary School, were at Juno Beach — one of five Allied landing zones—for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The two are travelling around Western Europe to various battlefields with Liberation bus tours until June 26. Prior to their departure, Kevin, a member of the Parksville Legion, reached out to Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni and advocate for Canadian veterans, who hooked he and Laken up with V.I.P passes to the D-Day event.
Kevin and Laken were able to meet and talk to many veterans during the celebration, including Gen. Jonathan Vance and the Commander of Joint Operation (special forces), who gave Laken some command coins.
“That was pretty special,” Kevin said. “Laken got to thank each and every one of them.”
At another point during the ceremony, Kevin said his son met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It was pretty cool, [Trudeau] spent time with Laken and posed for a picture,” Kevin said.
Laken said Trudeau is a “nice guy” but that the real excitement for the day was meeting the veterans.
“It was better meeting the veterans because the day was about them,” Laken said. “I met quite a few veterans. One was in the navy, one flew a Lancaster Plane.”
Laken comes from a military family, his great-great-grandfather battled in the First World War in the 52nd infantry, and he hopes to one day serve in the army himself.
“After Afghanistan, I became a single father and [Laken] has always been by my side, helping me out at work,” Kevin said. “Laken fell in love with history. He understands what [soldiers] went through and to be on the battle fields. To see where they fought, I don’t think words can really describe it until you come here.”
Both Laken and Kevin give big kudos to Johns for helping them in honouring the veterans.
“It means so much,” Kevin said. “It was great for me to come back and thank these guys.”
“I couldn’t have gone to D-Day if it wasn’t for Gord Johns,” Laken said.