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Thankful for Canada’s military

October 2007
Re: Peter Worthington’s Young Canadians Respond (October 12), it’s good to see that young Canadians are upholding this country’s proud military history, despite what the “peace-at-any-price proponents” would like. Historically, Canadians have fielded the biggest non-conscript military. It just seems to be an inherent trait that Canadians are willing to serve their country and fight for what is right.

There are many reasons why people choose to join the military, but a common reason is a sense of adventure and a desire to travel to distant places, just like past veterans (some things never change). While the idea of fighting and dying in a far-off land is always a possibility, a youthful sense of invincibility usually trumps that reality. I joined the Navy Reserve because it sounded better than flipping burgers at the local burger joint for the summer (I stayed for 13 years).

Despite what some may think, those joining the military are not doings so because they can’t get a job elsewhere. Today many people joining the military are highly educated, informed and motivated people who want a good career with benefits, job security, good training, a pension, room for advancement and adventure.

Even those not looking for a career in the military are getting in on the action, so to speak. Reservists are currently in great demand for overseas deployments. In Canada, reservists are not required to serve overseas, but many are voluntarily serving. Some will argue that this is a necessity due to the small size of our Regular Force, which is true, but reservists are still volunteering.

Why are so many reservists volunteering to go on overseas deployments? Capt. Jeff Shadlock, public affairs officer for Barrie’s Grey & Simcoe Foresters, states that for many reservists, it’s why they joined in the first place. When training with their respective units, reservists are in “practice mode”, but when they get into a real theatre of operations, everything they do is for real. It seems to be the next logical progression in their training.

The fact that others have served overseas can also be inspiring to other members of a military unit. “There is a strong sense of regimental spirit,” says Shadlock, who in his civilian life is a teacher at Nantyr Shores Secondary School in Innisfil. “You want to be a part of that group that has served (overseas).”

I can certainly attest to that. One regret I have from my 13 years in the Navy Reserve is that I never got to serve overseas.

I grew up with a father in the Army Reserve (who is still serving after 50 years). It’s interesting to see some of my father’s old pictures. If any of the soldiers in the pictures were wearing medals, it was the Canadian Forces Decoration (12-year service medal) and maybe a commemorative medal, such as the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967) or the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (1977). Maybe one lucky soldier would have the United Nations medal for service in Cyprus. Although Regular Force members routinely served on UN peacekeeping missions, it was not all that common for reservists to serve back then.

Today it’s a common sight to see young privates and corporals, both Reserve and Regular Force, with 2 or 3 campaign medals for service on UN and NATO missions.

While any veteran will tell you that peace is better than war, we can’t have peace, security and freedom unless we have a military who is prepared to defend it. We should be thankful that we have young people who want to join the military.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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