Remembrance Day Narrative

A Junior Officer from HMCS Moncton stands in front of the ship's company next to a division of the Barbados military during the National Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 11, 2018. Photo: Photographer, HMCS Moncton

Having served in the military for eight years now, I’ve participated in a variety of Remembrance Day ceremonies. Some were simple – a parade of perhaps twenty Royal Canadian Navy members gathered near a local park cenotaph, and some were grander, like municipal ceremonies in Montreal and Halifax. Before coming to Barbados during Operation CARIBBE, I had never had the honour of being a part of a National Remembrance Day ceremony. I had high expectations.

Moments after Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Moncton’s crew had formed into their ranks in preparation to be marched on, it became clear to me that I was not going to be disappointed. The voice of the Barbadian Officer in charge of the parade filled the small parking lot where we had gathered. I immediately understood how important he considered the upcoming events to be. Everything from the tone of his voice, to his instructions (and the words he chose when he gave them) conveyed that what we were doing there meant something important. It showed that he cared and that the people watching did as well. I’ll admit that I had begun to look at these parades as little more than a yearly routine, an elaborate ceremony that mostly stuck in my mind for its tendency to put me in uncomfortable clothes and leave me with sore feet.  Hearing that voice flood over the ranks of Barbadian military members, making them all stand a bit taller, I felt myself standing taller as well.

From that moment on, I was given a chance to see the rest of the parade from outside of my own predispositions. I saw the precisely executed drill of the Barbadian troops in the Bridgetown parade square, and the grandeur of the addition of drill with horses to the Governor General’s Guard. But overall, what stuck with me most, was the atmosphere of utmost solemnity and respect that pervaded the conduct and expression of every person I saw around that cenotaph – whether they were laying wreaths or simply coming to watch. Once again, I felt a pang of shame for having failed, on this one day, to step outside my own tiny issues and see the full meaning of the sacrifice to which I was paying respect. I left that parade with a newly acquired understanding of how important Remembrance Day is and with no small amount of gratitude for the people of Barbados who showed it to me.

Moments like these are the reasons why I am thankful to be a member of the Royal Canadian Navy. While serving as a barrier to the flow of illicit narcotics into North America, Operation CARIBBE gives me and other Canadians the opportunity to work closely with members of friendly countries. It provides the chance to exchange culture, knowledge, and values, and sometimes to learn valuable lessons like I did this time. I can say with confidence that I will never forget the enriching experiences I’ve had while sailing on Operation CARIBBE, and I will carry them with me for years to come.

HMCS Moncton
Operation CARIBBE

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