Nancy Siew, retired Citizen Judge, became a part of the military family when her oldest son, Cletus Cheng, joined the army reserves in 1981.
He served proudly until 1983 when he joined the regular force. Cheng completed his ROPT at the University of Windsor and graduated in 1986 with a degree in Political Science.
“He then had an obligation to serve five years, and he gladly did that because he loved the military. Towards the end, he told me he was very happy he had joined the military,” shared Siew.
Cheng was a military police officer in Cold Lake, AB, and had plans of returning to law school.
Sadly, Cheng suddenly passed away while competing in the Defenders’ Challenge. He went into cardiac arrest during the race due to overexertion.
“I met his friends after the funeral, and these friends became my friends for the rest of my life, and I became a military family. The military family was such a big help for me and my grieving process,” said Siew.
Since Cletus’s passing Siew wanted to find a way to give thanks and show appreciation to the military community and other veterans because the military has given her so much emotional support and helped her throughout her grieving period.
“Who would not want to give thanks to a veteran? And I thought, ‘Well, I will try this year,’” she said. “When I made the suggestion, somebody stood up and protested and said, ‘Well you’re very ambitious, you’re just giving yourself a lot of grief,’ but I said I was willing to take that on.”
This Friday, June 1, 2018, more than 100 veterans will be honoured at the first annual Asian Heritage Dinner in Markham, ON. Siew added, she is very happy with how everything turned out. A patron hopped on board to help share in the expenses, and Siew was able to gather a group of veterans to be honoured.
“They don’t care about the honour and all that, but it is our way of thanking them,” she added.
While this is also a dinner to honour Canadian veterans, Siew said it’s also a way to bring the different cultures within Canada, together through food. Siew refers to it as a cultural exchange. The dinner will feature eight traditional Asian dishes.
“It’s easy to open people’s hearts when there’s food because food is the best conduit of cultural exchange. Who doesn’t like food? Maybe they don’t like all eight dishes, but there may be one or two dishes they would enjoy very much,” said Siew.
Keeping with the cultural exchange theme, there will be a presentation of Scottish culture, the Chinese Orchestra will be performing, and other scheduled activities dinner guests will be able to participate in throughout the night.
“It’s really an exchange of culture. I always thought as a long-term Canadian here, I’m first generation, that there is a lot to be done about understanding each other,” said Siew. “For as long as I am able, I shall encourage people to do this. It opens a lot of understanding. It makes our society, a very harmonious society because by truly understanding each other, we get to know.”
Siew added, this is just the first of many dinners to come, as there will always be veterans to honour and there’s still lots to learn from one another.
“We are all just a piece of the mosaic in Canadian society,” she said.