I’m not really a militaristic person, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the air force, especially the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), because it’s a big part of my family. My grandfather (Papa) Sergeant Reginald “Reg” Chislett served in the RCAF from 1952 to 1977, mostly as a Flight Engineer aboard C-130 Hercules transport aircraft on the 436 Squadron. My grandmother (Nanny) Margaret (nee Hawkins) served for 18 months in 1953-1954—just long enough to meet my grandfather and get married. Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario is home to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. Almost every military aircraft the RCAF has ever used is on display on the museum grounds. The paths through the outdoor display area are lined with over 11,000 stones engraved with the names of people who have served in the RCAF or other allied air forces. They’re called Ad Astra Stones in reference to the original Latin motto of the RCAF Per ardua ad astra “Through adversity to the stars,” (the current motto is Sic itur ad astra “Such is the pathway to the stars”).
When Papa turned 80, our family purchased one of the stones for him as a gift. He died in January this year at age 86. Nanny turned 85 this past May and we purchased a stone for her as a birthday gift too. The annual Ad Astra Ceremony was held at the museum on September 24 for the over 200 new stones added this year. My family traveled to Trenton for the dedication of my grandmother’s stone and to honor my grandfather whose date of death was recently added next to his name.