TORONTO -- As vaccine programs expand across the country, those 80 and up are making up an increasingly smaller percentage of new cases — welcome news in a Quebec long-term care unit for veterans.

Within the walls of Ste-Anne’s hospital, fighting COVID-19 is more than a mission, it’s a duty to protect those who once fought to protect us.

Shots of the vaccine have now given that mission a boost, bringing some relief and hope to the unit’s roughly 100 residents.

Among them is 89-year-old Stuart Vary, who served in Korea.

“I have 16 grandchildren, I have nine great-grandchildren,” he said proudly. He added that residents “still miss going home or going outside, but hopefully it will change.”

During COVID-19’s second wave in the fall, the virus made its way into the veterans’ unit.

“It was very hard, a tough moment for everyone,” Isabelle Labrie, manager at Ste-Anne’s Hospital, told CTV News.

Life changed completely for the residents.

“I haven't seen my wife for five months right now,” Jim McCann told CTV News.

COVID-19 slowed the 97-year-old’s active life. He used to wake up early to go to the gym in the morning.

McCann’s routine is still plotted with military precession, but for now, dinners out with his wife are on hold.

“I talk to my wife about a dozen times a day to pass the time,” he said.

With the vaccine shots, some activities have returned, such as physiotherapy and bingo, provided it’s played in small groups.

“It helps to see we are moving forward, trying to get back to normal life,” said Labrie.

Every shot helping to turn the tide of the battle for these veterans. 

With files from Alexandra Mae Jones