Opinion Column

Careers and college: Jamie Bramburger says goodbye to a war veteran

Jamie Bramburger

By Jamie Bramburger, Special to The Daily Observer

Submitted photo
Jamie Branburger, manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College Waterfront Campus poses for a photo with veteran Ron Kinsley during last year's Remembrance Day service at the campus. In his Careers and College column, Bramburger pays tribute to Kinsley, who recently passed away.

Submitted photo Jamie Branburger, manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College Waterfront Campus poses for a photo with veteran Ron Kinsley during last year's Remembrance Day service at the campus. In his Careers and College column, Bramburger pays tribute to Kinsley, who recently passed away.

Remembrance Day at Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus in Pembroke will be a bit more sombre this Nov. 11. The college was sad to learn of the passing of retired Sgt. Ron Kinsley, a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War, who for many years participated in the College’s Remembrance Day service.

Kinsley joined the Canadian military as a young man near the end of the Second World War, never having to be deployed overseas, but a few years later when the Korean War broke out, he saw combat. He lost comrades in Korea and for years after the war ended, he advocated for Korean War veterans, pushing that they receive the same benefits as soldiers who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

When I first approached Kinsley about attending the College’s Remembrance Day service, he was somewhat reluctant. While driving him home from that service, I understood why. In a moment of reflection, he said to me, “Thank you for inviting me. My experience today has changed my perspective about today’s young people.”

Kinsley was simply unsure of how he would be received by the students. He feared they couldn’t possibly understood what it meant to be in the line of enemy fire, and therefore couldn’t appreciate what veterans had gone through while performing their military duties. For him, there was a disconnection between generations, one that he thought would make him feel uncomfortable and perhaps unappreciated by the students.

He didn’t need to worry about that. When he stood at the start of the service and introduced himself by thanking the students for pausing to remember his comrades who died on the field of battle, he brought the reality of war to the forefront. He broke down the generational gap and poignantly reminded everyone why Remembrance Day is so important to all Canadians.

When the service ended, a lineup of students took the time to shake his hand and thank him for attending the service. Kinsley was emotionally moved by the outpouring of support he had received from the students, and year after year, the students repeated the practice of engaging with him. Many talked to him about their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, or grandparents who served in the military. Others simply said, “thank you for serving our country.”

At last year’s ceremony, it was obvious Kinsley was becoming frail and he told me I had better find another veteran to attend the ceremony. I told him I had no back-up plan, so I would be expecting him on Nov. 11. He gave me a half-smile, and said, “Alright then.”

On behalf of the staff and students of Algonquin College, we extend our deepest sympathy to the Kinsley family. Rest in peace Sgt. Kinsley. You’ve served your country well.

Jamie Bramburger is the manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus in Pembroke. Jamie can be reached at 613-735-4700 ext. 2756 or at brambuj@algonquincollege.com.