War veteran, Tsawout elder and longtime Peninsula resident George Underwood was honoured with a Diamond Jubilee Medal earlier this week (July 31).
The Diamond Jubilee Medal acknowledges Canadians making significant contributions and achievements. Underwood, who was one of 16 children born to Bert and Ellen Underwood of Tsawout, enlisted in the Canadian Army in December of 1941. He spent five years with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in some of the most difficult infantry fighting conditions. During his time with the military, Underwood served as a runner, which meant he carried messages and ammunition to soldiers fighting at the front of the group. He left the army in March of 1946 and returned to Canada.
Underwood went on to meet his wife Geraldine and raise 16 children, eight boys and eight girls. He is now a grandfather and great-grandfather to many and has been married to Geraldine for 64 years.
Aside from his contributions to the Canadian military, Underwood is also known for his contributions to the local First Nations community. Born in Tsawout, he grew up learning how to hunt, farm and fish among other things, and he grew to be known as an entrepreneurial type. His talents included boat building, fishing, house building and the family tradition of being a grave digger.
Underwood, 86, and his wife are the oldest elders in the Tsawout community and his daughter Mavis said he is a very deserving recipient for the Jubilee Medal.
“My dad, apart from everything else he did, he raised a family of 16,” she said during the ceremony. “He and my mother always made sure we had food on the table and always made sure we knew how important education was and that we always went to school. Now he’s a grandfather and great-grandfather.”
Underwood, who lives in the Lodge at Broadmead where he’s referred to as King George, was presented with the medal during the ceremony in the Tsawout gymnasium by David Underwood, a councillor with Tsawout First Nation, and Richard Blackwolf, the national president of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association. Also present during the ceremony were several surviving members from the Princess Patricia Light Infantry and members of Underwood’s family.