Hero’s sendoff for Roy Rushton

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PICTOU — Roy Rushton was remembered for his human qualities and service in two wars during a formal celebration of his life last Saturday.

Celebrating the Noble Life of Roy Rushton was the theme for the event held at Branch 16 of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Dignitaries attending included representatives of the Canadian and South Korean military, in tribute to Rushton’s service in the Second World War and the Korean War.

Sgt. Roy Clinton Rushton, who turned 100 on January 5 while in declining health at the Northumberland Veterans Unit, passed away on Father’s Day, June 17, at the unit. There was no visitation or service at his request, but here was a strong sentiment for an event in his honour.

“It’s overwhelming; it was a really great tribute,” said Rushton’s grandson Joey Rushton, a Master Seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy. “My grandfather was in the military and my father was. It makes me feel very proud.”

Head table guests included civic representatives Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane, Pictou East MLA Tim Houston, Senator Michael MacDonald, Brig. Gen (Ret’d) Vincent Kennedy and two South Korean representatives: Stephen Lee, president of the Nova Scotia Valley Korean Community Association and Col. Chang Bae Yoon, defence attaché from the Republic of Korea Embassy.

A program highlighted Roy Rushton’s heroics after he enlisted at the start of the Second World War in 1939 and joined the Canadian Parachute Battalion. He was among those who parachuted into Normandy on the evening of June 5, 1944 before the Allied invasion early the next morning.

Rushton’s battalion also parachuted into Belgium in December 1944 to help quell the German invasion called the Battle of the Bulge. He jumped again in 1945 onto German soil as part of an effort to secure victory in Europe.

He suffered a leg wound and metal remained embedded for nearly 75 years. It caused his leg to ache during cold conditions.

Rushton was part of the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during much of the severe fighting in the Korean War.

“The people of Korea are forever grateful to the people of Canada for their sacrifice in the Korean War,” Colonel Yoon said. “We must remember their dedication.”

He praised the “courage, sacrifice and dedication” that was part of the gift Rushton and his comrades “gave to my people.”

Sen. MacDonald noted how Canada’s relationship with Korean can be traced to the 19th century and missionary work that began there and has been ongoing since then. He shared his thoughts of having visited the graves of Canadian war dead at a cemetery in Korea.

“I think I wanted them to know I was there and they were not alone,” he said while advising people to make a similar pilgrimage there. “It will leave a lasting impression on you.”

Kennedy said he felt compelled to join friends and family to be part of Saturday’s gathering. Kennedy’s titles include Colonel of the Regiment for the Princess Patricia’s which Rushton was attached to in Korea.

MacFarlane shared her experience the first time she did a parachute jump without aid in tribute to Rushton.

“I wanted to find out what it’s like jumping out of a plane alone and not knowing how to land,” she said. “I bawled the whole time but I was in control. I had an awakening about what it was like. Roy got a chuckle out of it … he’s not just a local hero; he’s a world hero.”

Houston shared an irony during his time as a “military brat” while his father was transferred to a series of bases during his service with the armed forces.

“My father served his whole 35 years during peace,” he said.

Graham McBride was among those who felt the need to attend once he knew Rushton was being recognized.

“He was a soldier’s soldier,” he said. “I think it was out of community support that we had this.”

Rushton’s son Robert Rushton also shared some remarks.

“Today is a day of celebrating a life full of happy moments,” he said. “Roy Rushton’s life should be a celebration we carry on forever.”

Robert Rushton and his wife Wanda place poppies on the cloth draped over his father Roy Rushton’s ashes. (Goodwin photo)