For Larry White, Remembrance Day is a chance to remember those who not only died at war, but also those who went to war and were willing to give their life. “Who knows what can happen; it’s the nature of the job, it’s dangerous. You don’t have to be at war for it to be dangerous. I’ve seen people killed on the ship when things happen. It’s those people, too, that I remember. Being in the military, it’s a dangerous job,” says White.
He takes us back to when he was in grade 12 on a school trip to Germany. Who knew that trip would lead to a 26-year career with the Navy. “I guess I was always interested in the military,” remembers White, “and when I was in grade 12, I went to Germany as an exchange student. When I returned in the summer, I decided I didn’t want to go back to school; I wanted to travel the world. The best way to do that I figured was in the navy. That is basically why I did it. I joined when I was 17 and stayed for 26 years.”
White’s one brush with war was during Desert Storm on a ship called the Huron. “I was an engineer for the Huron, this was in 1990 and we were at war, we were informed we were a ship to go over,” says White. “We spent four months in preparation, and then we sailed and before we got there, the war ended, so the stress and strain of family when you go to war was there. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were in Gibraltar when we got word and they indicated we were going to the gulf and relieving some of the ships. We spent a couple of months in the gulf,” remembers White.
He continues, “When I was in Gibraltar I was sent home for a couple months and then was sent back. That was my brush with war.”
So what was it like, going off to war?
“I don’t think I was as anxious as my family was. It’s what you train for,” explains White. “Preparing to go to war there is a lot of adrenaline and there is a purpose in what you are doing. We spent a month in Halifax refitting because really the ships weren’t prepared for what they were asked to do. We went to Halifax and we spent a month, 24 hours a day, refitting the ship, putting new weapon systems on, a cooling system because we were going to a hot climate and so, every day the intensity was building. Normally, it’s a la-dee-da type of affair, but that was really when I had a lot of enjoyment. Seeing people work as a team, for a purpose and a goal. When you have a goal of going to war, it’s a real thing and you build such a bond. I can understand what you see in these movies, all the war movies; the thing was your buddy. I still stay in contact with some,” says White.
The Navy was also a path, which eventually led White to university. He remembers, “When I joined, I joined in communications, messages and signals. I did that for three years and then I was a diver. Anything to do with underwater, working underneath the ship, underwater explosives, I had a great opportunity to work with the American Seals, the underwater attack team.”
He also spent some time on a bomb squad in BC working closely with the RCMP. “We had extensive training in explosives and handling war material, old war material. I did that for about five years and then I was selected for university. I took physics and then became a marine engineer and so I did my training on the west coast and then further training at the Royal Military College in Plymouth England,” says White.
From here, we have come full circle to White being the marine engineer for the Huron in the Gulf. After this, White became the chief instructor for engineering at a base in Victoria, where he worked for four years, until being appointed as the executive officer of the school until he retired.
So for White, serving in the Navy turned out to take him exactly where he wanted to go—around the world to about 56 countries and all around this big world there are people just like White, who have offered to be one of the many who are willing to go to war. White says in conclusion, “I think it’s a day to remember the people that not only died during the war, but went to war and were willing to give their life. It’s also a day to reflect on my own time and remember.”