A retired member of the Royal Canadian Navy, who was recently recognized for his 38 years of miltary service, said he’d like to see more Black members of the military be honoured for their service, too.
On Sunday, Perry Colley was presented with a Quilt of Valour by the Quilts of Valour-Canada Society whose mission is to recognize and support injured members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“There were times when you didn’t really think people appreciate what you do, and, you know, the number of times you’re away from your family,” Colley said Wednesday in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.
After serving a year in the Army reserves with the Princess Louise Fusiliers in Halifax, Colley joined the Canadian Navy as a petty officer with HMCS Scotian in the mid-1970s.
During his career, Colley spent 15 years at sea, including a six-month tour in Cambodia as an observer for the UN in 1992. He retired in 2014 at the rank of chief petty officer 2nd class.
“When you think about the amount of time you actually spend away from your family when you’re deployed just at sea, or going to do training, you’re gone three or four months and you’re away from your family, a lot of things happen when you’re away from your family,” Colley said.
After retiring, Colley spent a year working for the East Preston Empowerment Academy. He currently works at a recycling plant near his home in East Hants.
Colley found out he was being honoured when his wife who nominated him, showed him the email confirming his nomination had been accepted.
Colley’s wife, children, friends, and family members were in attendance for the presentation at the legion in Lower Sackville.
Rhoda Moore served with Colley at the start of his career as a fellow petty officer at HMCS Scotian. Moore and Colley remained friends over the years. Moore represents the Nova Scotia chapter of the Quilts of Valour society and presented Colley with his quilt at the ceremony.
“It’s not a gift, it’s a thank-you from the people of Canada to that veteran for their service,” Moore said. “We’re getting close to 19,000 quilts that we’ve presented across the country since the group was formed [in 2009].”
Nova Scotia is not only the home to the largest population of Black Canadians whose roots date back to pre-Confederation, Moore said Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada has one of the highest per-capita amounts of active and retired military members.
Colley said he’d like to see more Black Canadians nominated by their friends and families to receive Quilts of Valour.
“That’s the only way they’ll get the recognition is if someone nominates them, so yes I think they should [be nominated] because there are a lot of Black people in Nova Scotia who served in the military,” Colley said.
“I remember my dad used to want me to wear my uniform to [events] and I would say, ‘Why?’ But then when I did start wearing my uniform … folks really appreciated seeing a Black man in uniform from the community. But it was a lot of years before I came to that realization.”
Moore said that all Quilts of Valour are donated by people and groups across Canada.
Information on how to donate a quilt and how to nominate a service member to receive a Quilts of Valour is available on their website, quiltsofvalour.ca.