Camp Hill Veterans Services mark Centennial celebration with surprise commemorative gifts and new garden monument

Director Heather White and veteran Gabe Girard at the Centennial celebration.
Director Heather White and veteran Gabe Girard at the Centennial celebration.

(HALIFAX, N.S) – Veterans and residents, families and volunteers, staff members past and present, Canadian Armed Forces representatives, dignitaries and dozens of others gathered Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Camp Hill Veterans Services.

“What has struck me in all of the conversations I’ve had is that what resonates with people is not any one building, or governance structure, or accomplishment; but rather, what seems to echo in the hearts long after people have left Camp Hill, is those they’ve met along the way,”

Veterans’ Services and Geriatrics Director Heather White said during the special ceremony held inside the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building in Halifax.

“Today is a chance to celebrate all those people -- who we’ve had a chance to learn from, work with, care for and laugh with, and to give thanks to all those who have contributed to making Camp Hill the vibrant and special place that it is,” White said.

As casualties began to mount overseas in the winter of 1917, one century ago, the Government of Canada realized that the country would need more hospitals back home to care for those returning from the First World War.

Less than six months later, in September 1917, Camp Hill Hospital was ready to begin to admit its first patients. Within three months of opening, though, Camp Hill faced a tremendous challenge. On Dec. 6, 1917, the devastation of the Halifax Explosion required an extraordinary response effort. Camp Hill Hospital, with a capacity for 300 patients, was called upon to care for more than 1,200 of the most critically injured within the first 24 hours of the explosion.

The mandate of Camp Hill Hospital expanded in 1928 to start providing residential care to veterans who required long-term care and support. Since that time, thousands of exceptional men and women who served our country have called Camp Hill their home. Over its 100 years of service to the community, Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building has become a recognized and respected fixture on QEII Health Sciences Centre grounds in the heart of Halifax. The facility serves as a caring home for about 175 of our local veterans, while also supporting the community with health services ranging from geriatrics assessments to rehabilitation services for inpatients and outpatients alike.

“There’s no doubt that the thousands of men and women who have lived at Camp Hill over the years have made an indelible mark on our nation’s history and on the hearts of all those who have known them,” White said. “To the veterans who are here today … it is indeed a privilege to share this time at Camp Hill with you.”

Special Centennial gifts unveiled at the celebration included a portrait of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal Anne, who became Royal Patron of Camp Hill Veterans’ Services earlier this year, as well as a commemorative Halifax Mooseheads jersey, which was donated in partnership by the QMJHL club and the Canadian Armed Forces, featuring the Camp Hill crest and No. 100 on the back.

“This Camp Hill is also known as Camp Home, which is Camp Love,” resident Gabe Girard, treasurer of the Camp Hill Veterans’ Council, said after helping unveil a photo of the Centennial garden monument.

The monument is being installed as part of the beloved Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Garden.

“All the love and attention we get from everybody,” Girard trailed off, a smile on his face but his eyes welling up with tears. “Everybody in this place is beyond comprehension. Thank you.”