Alberta’s incoming 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 why the Air Force discharged him as a teenager in the mid-1950s for neglecting his duties.

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 is set to become the province’s 17th lieutenant-governor tomorrow. It will be 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.

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