Father and son, Robert and Denis Freeston, stand together in uniform on Nov. 8, 2018. The Freeston family have a rich history of military service spannng several wars and peacekeeping missions. Photo submitted

The Freeston family: generations of military service

“I’m glad everyone came back from the war, that’s one of the main things.”

For the Freeston family, Remembrance Day means a great deal as many members of the clan have served in various military roles throughout the decades.

Robert Freeston, a longtime Clearwater resident who now lives in Kamloops, received the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal on Oct. 28 at the Kamloops Legion.

The medal was presented to him by Kangjun Lee, who represents the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Vancouver.

His son, Denis, who was a peacekeeper for the United Nations and did a tour of Cypress in the 1970s, was at the ceremony and expressed how it felt to see his father receive the accolade.

“I thought it was great. It was really neat seeing him get that for sure,” he said. “We’re probably going to get that medal mounted on the wall with his other ones.”

Robert went to Korea in 1953, though Denis said his father didn’t talk much about the war after he came back in 1954.

The only anecdote Denis could remember his father talking about involved a young boy the soldiers seemed to come across frequently and how they gave him K-rations and candies when they could.

“He never said anything about it; my grandfather never did either and he served in both World Wars, he was even shot a few times, but they wouldn’t talk about it,” said Denis.

“It was almost like a creed with the military, when you’re in a war and get back to civilization, you just don’t talk about it.”

Observing Remembrance Day all year round

Alongside his father and grandfather, Denis also has two uncles with military experience, both having served in the air force in the Second World War, as well as a younger brother who served in Kuwait.

“It seems to be in the bloodline,” he said.

For his own service, Denis went to Cypress from 1978 to ‘79, working as a radio operator for the signal corps.

He was originally stationed in Calgary when personnel was needed to help the British and Denis was one of 10 Canadians who went to lend a hand.

Denis noted as peacekeepers they weren’t there to do battle, and overall his service was a rewarding experience.

“It was pretty good, you did what you did — you’re there to keep the peace, not to shoot people,” he said.

With all this military experience among the generations of Freestons, it’s no surprise they’re avid participants at the Remembrance Day services each year.

Denis takes part in the Clearwater events, marching each year, while his son takes pictures of the proceedings. He said his father Robert used to march alongside him, but will just be spectating this year as he’s become less mobile as the years go by.

“Remembrance Day to me means a lot; we have quite a bit of history with the military. We pay our respects, it’s all you can do and I’m going to be carrying a flag (this year),” he said.

Clearwater Remembrance Day ceremonies take place Nov. 11 at the cenotaph in Reg Small Park beginning at 10:45 a.m.


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Robert Freeston received the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal on Oct. 28 at the Kamloops Legion. He served in the Korean War from 1953 to ‘54. Pictured, Freeston shortly after his return home. Photo submitted

Robert Freeston made his way to Korea on U.S. Naval Ship General John Pope. The ship is featured on a postcard kept by his son, Denis, who served as a United Nations Peace Keeper in Cypress in 1976. Photo submitted

Korean War veterans Gerry Klein (right), Bob Freeston, John Smith and Jim Barlow were honoured for their service at the Kamloops Legion on Oct. 28. Photo by Mickael Potestio/KTW

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