Updated: Feb 17
“I was born in Africville, Nova Scotia, the youngest of six children, in 1964. In 1965, we were forced out of Africville by the City of Halifax, with the option of public housing or finding our own home. My father then bought a barge that he had served on as a clearance diver while he was in the Navy. He converted this into a home and office. He ran his diving company (Commercial Divers Ltd.) from there for 4 years. This is where I developed my love of the water.
Like most boys, I grew up playing sports with my brothers and learning team concepts that I would use throughout my military career. We moved once again in 1970 to where my family home is now in the North End neighbourhood of Halifax.
After high school, I spent a few years running the roads, with no real direction.
At 22, I followed in my father’s and two older brothers’ footsteps and joined the military in 1986 as a marine electrician. After 10 weeks of “basic” at CFB Cornwallis (course number 8627), I was posted to CFB Esquimalt near Victoria B.C. where I completed my qualification Level 3.
I was then posted to Halifax and my first ship, HMCS Skeena, followed by HMCS Algonquin. During this time, I deployed to the North Atlantic for NATO exercises, along with many other assignments.
In 1990 I re-mustered to Medical Technician and began my training in CFB Borden, Ontario. Upon completion of the course, I was posted to CFB Halifax to work at Stadacona base hospital. During this time I worked on the surgical ward taking care of post-op patients, and in the treatment room assisting with minor surgeries.
I completed my ship’s team diver course at CFB Shearwater in 1994 and used that training to dive all over the world with the Navy and Army. While deployed to Australia, I took the opportunity to dive with Great White sharks, quite a memorable experience.
In the winter of 1994-95, I was deployed to Bosnia with the RCD Battle Group out of CFB Petawawa. I was always aware of racism in the military, but none as blatant as in Bosnia, there the Military Police showed me what was written on the washroom wall, “Join the white boys club of Visoko hang Leading Seaman Vemb”. To my knowledge, nothing further was done by the Military Police. From that point on I slept with my 9mm pistol handy.
In 1996, I was assigned to HMCS Halifax for a NATO deployment to the Mediterranean and South America.
In the summer of 1997, I was posted to 1 Field Ambulance in Edmonton.
In 1999, I deployed to Kosovo with 1 PPCLI Battle Group, then in 2002 I deployed to Afghanistan with 1 CER as Part of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group.
In 2003, I was posted to CFB Greenwood to work in the Medical Inspection Room.
In 2004, I deployed to Dubai in support of the medical team out of CFB Trenton. Upon my return, I did my training to be Air Medevac qualified in 2005 at CFB Trenton and then was posted to the Canadian Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Unit in 2006, also located at CFB Trenton.
In 2011, I was posted back to CFB Borden for more medical training.
Then, in 2014, I was posted to 25 Field Ambulance in Toronto as the Ops and Training NCO.
After 30 years of service, 6 tours and 7 postings, I completed my career in 2016, returning home to Nova Scotia.”
- Leo Vemb