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Cloverdale veteran talks about his time in the navy

Yvon Lehoux spent 30 years in the Royal Canadian Navy
Legion members Lorne Stoutenburg (left) and Yvon Lehoux stand next to a mural outside the Cloverdale Legion. Both men served in Canada’s military. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

Yvon Lehoux spent 30 years in the Royal Canadian Navy.

He left his home in Thetford Mines, Quebec in 1975, spent lengthy periods on Canada’s east and west coasts, and only retired in 2006.

He said he found the navy hard at first, but then, as anything, he got used to it.

“It was difficult because you have to get used to the routine, get used to the unusual changes to your everyday life,” said Lehoux. “It’s a career with a lot of sacrifices, a lot of adversity, but a lot of reward too. And good times and bad times, just like life in general.”

Lehoux said maintaining a family life was the most difficult part of being in the navy. He would be deployed at sea for five or six months and when he returned, it was often hard for him and his family.

“You have to become a dad again and look after a family again,” he said. “Of course your wife expects you to take over because she’s tired and you’re tired from being at sea for so long, so there are big adjustments for everyone.”

He said he really enjoyed his time in the navy and wouldn’t change a thing. He said he kept his love of country at the forefront of his mind when he’d be away at sea for long stints.

“I was proud to serve my country,” he said. “Canada is a gentle country, but when we need to stand up, we fight for our values and beliefs.”

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The Cloverdale resident said his time in the navy took him to every corner of both the Atlantic and the Arctic, including crossing the arctic circle several times, and into virtually every port in Europe.

“I’ve been down to the equator too. Not much on the far side of the Pacific, though,” he said. “In my career, I served about 16 years at sea.”

He said all the ships he served on are now “paid off,” that is decommissioned. Some were sold for scrap and some were sunk to form artificial reefs.

“That tells me I’m not a young fellow anymore,” Lehoux laughed.

Serving on the east coast, he was assigned to the HMCS Skeena from ’77 –’81. He served on the HMCS Algonquin from ’81 to ’85. In 1986, he was transferred to CFB Esquimalt and served on the HMCS Yukon from ’89 to ’91. Lehoux was also an instructor at the time, teaching in the damage control school on naval firefighting tactics, flood control, and nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. In 1995, he sailed on the HMCS Annapolis until the end of ’96. After that he got into recruiting and was also the assistant naval architect in the engineering section of the fleet maintenance facility.

“In 2005, I was a senior hull tech on the HMCS Algonquin again,” said Lehoux. “More than 20 years passed since I was last on that ship. When I put my foot on the Algonquin a second time, I felt like I was surrounded by ghosts.”

A year later, the Algonquin was at sea of the west coast of Vancouver Island when a storm hit. Lehoux opened his locker just as this ship hit a massive wave, broadside.

“All my stuff came out of my locker and I was chasing after my shaving cream,” Lehoux remembered with a laugh. “I said to myself, “I’m too old for this,” and I was 49 years old at the time and that’s when I decided, that after 30 years, I gave it a good go.”

Lehoux is now the new Sergeant-at-Arms for the Cloverdale Legion. He’s embraced the role and will be marching in the parade from the Legion to Veterans’ Square Nov. 11.

He said Remembrance Day is important to him because it stands as both a symbol of sacrifice and freedom and as a warning.

“It’s a day that should remind people that war is absolutely terrible and that countries and leaders of countries should think twice before they make that decision to go to war,” he said.

“It is the day where we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

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Malin Jordan

About the Author: Malin Jordan

Malin is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.
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