CAPT. Edward Chenier wore his navy blue veteran's blazer when he arrived home in Winnipeg from a special trip to England. He carried his medals in his carry-on with a brand-new one still wrapped in plastic.
The proud veteran of the Second World War had been invited on a trip to London by Veterans Affairs Canada, along with hundreds of other Bomber Command veterans, to witness Queen Elizabeth unveil a tribute to these flyers. The tribute came in the form of a sculpture meant to honour Bomber Command, which flew massive night raids over Nazi-occupied Europe.
The statue is an eight-ton bronze depiction of a seven-man bomber. Each soldier looks to the sky for surviving comrades. The monument is protected by a roof constructed from recovered aluminum of a Canadian Halifax bomber. The monument sits in Green Park across from Buckingham Palace.
Chenier was one of 42 Canadian pilots, navigators, radio operators and gunners invited to attend its unveiling on June 28. Each received a new medal as a token of thanks from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Chenier said the veterans were accompanied from Ottawa by Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney on the prime minister's plane.
"Flying in style," Chenier joked.
Chenier flew in less opulent surroundings as a wireless operator and air gunner with the RCAF during the Second World War. He was in Squadron 425 and flew 15 operations in a Halifax bomber over Germany.
Chenier, 88, took the momentous trip to England with his wife, Deed. The couple will celebrate their 66th anniversary next week.
"It was such a special trip. The honour was so long overdue. We were treated beyond our expectations," Deed said after the couple arrived home Wednesday evening at Richardson International Airport. "Ed got to see four of his squadron mates and we had lunch at Canada House. It really was such a wonderful experience."
After the war ended, Chenier continued serving with the RCAF for 23 years. He says though he tried his hand at other careers, the air force was home.
According to Chenier, flyers who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War were never fully recognized for the work they had done, as squadrons bombed German cities during some missions, leading to large numbers of civilian casualties.
Deed said her husband was instrumental in having a plaque changed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa that accused Command crews of "indiscriminate bombing."
Deed says that with this new sculpture, the work of the Bomber Command is finally being honoured.
"Honestly, this was such a wonderful honour but it's not enough of a thank you. It took too long to honour them. It can never be enough," Deed said. "They are heroes. He's still my hero."