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Sharon Johnston, wife of G.G. – appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) for MPC

Sharon Johnston, wife of G.G. – appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) for MPC

“Ceremony took place in Currie Hall, at the Royal Military College of Canada”

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston was appointed Honorary Captain (Navy) of Military Personnel Command of the Canadian Armed Forces today (6 June) at an investiture  in Kingston, Ontario.

Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander Military Personnel Command, presented Mrs. Johnston with an official scroll signed by Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan.

The responsibilities of honorary appointments include fostering esprit de corps; developing, promoting and sustaining strong community support; establishing and maintaining liaison with unit charities and associations as well as with the commander and other persons with honorary appointments; participating in parades and official functions in which the Command takes part; and advising the commander.

Following is the Address by Her Excellency Sharon Johnston on her  appointment, Honorary Captain (Navy) of Military Personnel Command:

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When I was asked by Christine (Ed. insert: Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander Military Personnel Command) a year ago to be the Honorary Captain to Military Personnel Command, I was greatly honoured. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves to do anything I can to be useful as a military civilian.

The military has influenced my life in unusual ways. My maternal grandfather was a Royal Engineer who died in the Great War. I never knew him. My grandmother was a British nurse who, despite her personal loss, cared for wounded. At war’s end, she immigrated to Canada to become superintendent of a hospital in Alberta and continued caring for the wounded. My father, unable to enlist during the Second World War because of a kidney problem, tried every trick to enlist but didn’t succeed. Disappointed, he stayed home, made money in a family business and began destructive philandering, an outward symbol of manliness. I did not understand his self-destruction until a former headmaster at Upper Canada College, having suffered from depression, wrote an op-ed piece in The Globe and Mail. “War defines manliness,” he wrote. Unable to enlist for medical reasons, like my father, he felt inadequate. He recovered, however, after seeing a psychologist.

Travelling to all parts of our country, often with my husband, David, your commander-in-chief, has genuinely touched my heart as I learn through visits to Military Family Resource Centres of the impact of military lifestyle on families.

I have had the privilege of visiting the bases and meeting so many members of our Canadian Armed Forces and their families. It is therefore a great honour to become Honorary Captain.

I grew up in a house of women. The family expression was there wasn’t a man worth a damn until David Johnston came along. He says: “Hold on, the jury’s still out!”

My five daughters were born in just seven years. (This is fast-track reproduction that I don’t recommend). We are now awaiting our thirteenth grandchild. My husband has been fully engaged and not always present to take out the garbage, so I understand what kind of impact a busy and competitive career has on a family. I might add this scenario is repeating itself in the lives of my five married daughters.

As a mother of five girls with all that entails, and a husband whose career was soaring, our family had its challenges. We didn’t hesitate to ask for help, and really benefited from professional child-centred and adult counselling. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. What is wrong is not asking for it.

The Military Personnel Command oversees the care of our ill and injured. How we care for their mental and physical health and that of their families truly matters to me.

My professional history as a physical and occupational therapist was relatively short due to the aforementioned fast-track reproduction. However, my early career was in child psychiatry. I did go on to do my doctorate in rehabilitation science at McGill University. I have maintained a lifelong interest in the mental health of both children and adults.

During my five years at Rideau Hall, I have travelled all over the country, in part to learn more about innovations taking place in mental health.

How we care for the wounded and sick, and their families, goes to the very heart of who we are as a nation.

Recently, after visiting the Integrated Personnel Support Centre in Petawawa, I suggested the facility could be more welcoming for those seeking help. I played a very small part in launching a plan to provide ill and injured soldiers and their families with recognized and uplifting pieces of art from the Art Bank, managed by the Canada Council for the Arts, that were suitable for the location at no cost to DND. The Integrated Personnel Support Centre has, in fact, become an art gallery for everyone on the base. I hope that we can raise the funds to establish this in other IPSCs.

I thank you for this opportunity to serve as a civilian. I look forward to meeting you at the reception and to continuing to support you in my new role.