Alberta’s new lieutenant-governor is one of Canada’s most decorated peacekeeping soldiers.

But the Navy wouldn’t have him. And the Air Force kicked him out.

“I was more interested in girls and beer,” laughed Don Ethell, a retired colonel, as he recalled in an interview last week why the Air Force discharged him as a teenager in the mid-1950s for neglecting his duties.

“You’re 17 and the hormones are raging.”

He said when navy recruiters learned about his air force hijinks, they also told the teen wild-thing to take a hike, son.

But “by coincidence I then walked past an army recruiting unit. There was a sergeant there and he said, ‘Sure, we’ll take a chance on you.’

“They took me on probation for a year, and things looked up from there on in.”

Half a century, 14 peacekeeping missions and a chestful of medals later, the Calgarian became the province’s 17th lieutenant-governor in a ceremony at the legislature yesterday.

It is the capstone on a career that has taken Ethell around the world, to hot spots in Beirut, the Middle East and the Balkans, and to refugee camps in Kenya and Somalia.

“It’s now payback time,” said Ethell, 72, in a phone interview from southern California, where he was on duty looking after two grandchildren.

“I’m going to pay back the Canadian people and the people of Alberta for all the good things they’ve done to Don Ethell and (wife) Linda, our two boys and our family.”

Latest From ...