Neil Benjamin Sterritt fought for Canada during the Second World War and was able to run for Canada afterward.

Neil Benjamin Sterritt fought for Canada during the Second World War and was able to run for Canada afterward.

Hazelton war veteran ran for his country

Neil Benjamin Sterritt was born August 9, 1913 in Glen Vowell, B.C. and at 27 (1940) he joined the Canadian Army.

Neil Benjamin Sterritt was born August 9, 1913 in Glen Vowell, B.C.

When he was 27 (1940) he became part of the Canadian Army, which was populated by many from the area before him.

He spent the years leading up to his military service doing things he enjoyed. such as, baseball, hockey, hunting on horseback and fishing.

From athletics to academics Sterritt excelled when he put his mind and body to task.

When he wasn’t at school he learned from Charles, father, and  Kathleen, mother, and nine siblings.

Sterritt grew up loving the outdoors and when he was old enough began working in mining for Buena Vista Mining Company Ltd. or guiding for geological survey groups in northwestern B.C.

Having developed a sense of adventure, Sterritt decided to join the military in 1940.

He was stationed in Prince Rupert, Esquimalt and Nanaimo, B.C. then in Ontario for a month.

While in Ontario he was offered a job at a Ford manufacturing plant, but declined.

The military was where he wanted to serve and with that decision Sterritt was sent to England to full-war.

He doesn’t like to speak about his service overseas and rarely takes part in Remembrance Day ceremonies by personal choice.

As the war effort was winding down, circa 1945, Sterritt used his athletic gifts to lift spirits.

He participated in several track and field events in Holland, England and the Netherlands.

The highlight of those events was a silver medal for his 440 relay team, which beat the top-ranked Canadian team, but could not best the Dutch team.

During his off-duty time Sterritt returned home to be close to family, play sports and work.

He toiled in the Red Rose Mine in the Roche De Boule mountain range in 1943, which produced ore until 1954, when tungsten was deemed unprofitable.

When the war ended Sterritt returned to his family in Hazelton.

He now holds the name Wii Gaak, Lax Gibuu (Wolf clan), which was passed to him in 1983.

When asked about getting a standing ovation at his son Neil John’s graduation he said, “Not bad for a bad boy from Glen Vowell.”

There are several veterans from the Hazelton area that preceded Sterritt in the military.

In the First World War four Hazeltonians are listed on the Aboriginal Veteran’s honour list.

Andrew, Charles and David Mowatt and Peter Wilson.

Three of the above fought in the 143rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the latter were called “storm troopers” by Axis forces and were noted for exemplary field work in the Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele offensives.

H.W. Tait, Wet’suwet’en, is also listed as battling in the Second World War from the Hazelton area.

Kenneth Edward Harris, Glen Vowell, is also listed, but no time frame is given for his services to the Canadian armed forces.