Army Reserve soldier inspired by a ‘Linc’ to Black history in Hamilton, Ontario

Army Reserve soldier inspired by a ‘Linc’ to Black History in Hamilton, Ontario

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Article / February 5, 2019 / Project number: 19-0015

By Corporal Cody Misner, 31 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs

Hamilton, Ontario — Corporal Corbin Monaco joined the Canadian Army Reserve with The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) when he was 22 years old, just a few years after meeting a pioneering local veteran with whom he shared much in common.

The son of a Jamaican mother and Italian-Canadian father, Cpl Monaco’s goal was to expand his skill set while also finding out just how far he could be pushed out of his comfort zone.

Cpl Monaco, of Hamilton is not the first in his family to have joined the Canadian Armed Forces. His parents, although somewhat apprehensive at first about the career move, were proud that their son became another member of the family to join; Cpl Monaco’s aunt had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force over a long career before retiring just recently.

He says he was also inspired by the story of the Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, the first Black person ever elected to the House of Commons, among other firsts achieved by him.

Mr. Alexander, born in Toronto, Ontario, has had numerous awards and schools named in his honour, in addition to a major freeway in Cpl Monaco’s home town of Hamilton. The “Linc,” as it is known locally, was named for Mr. Alexander, who became the 24th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. The son of West Indian immigrants also served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, just like Monaco’s aunt, during the Second World War.

He also served as Honorary Colonel of 2 Tactical Aviation Wing (later 2 Air Wing) from November 1985 to December 1996. A Royal Air Cadet Squadron, 876 Lincoln Alexander Squadron, in Scarborough, Ont., is named in his honour and he was an honorary director of the Air Cadet League of Canada. Mr. Alexander died October 19, 2012 at the age of 90 in Hamilton.

Cpl Monaco met the pioneering leader when he was a teen, and aspired then to “become something more than an ordinary citizen,” just as Mr. Alexander had.

An avid athlete and soccer player, Cpl Monaco currently working as a sheriff with the Ontario Public Service. “The role of a sheriff is to execute and enforce orders and writs of the Ontario courts, so in layman’s terms, I enforce Court orders such as restraining orders, family court orders and repossess assets and serve subpoenas,” he explained.

Cpl Monaco believes that joining the Army Reserve provides regular citizens with a valuable background of discipline and duty that serves them well in today’s tough job market and provides service to the communities in which they live, as well. “It’s a great place to develop as a person,” he said. “It’s also a great place to give back.”

It is not always easy balancing the life of a citizen and the part-time job of a Reserve infantry soldier, as summers are often spent training full-time.

“The Army is truly one of the places where you get back what you put into it,” he said. “The best part about being a Reservist is being able to maintain my civilian career and still gain the skills that the Army offers.”

Cpl Monaco links his military career to that aspiration to “be more.”

In his short three years of service, he has done some remarkable things, such as participating in the Canadian Patrol Concentration – a grueling endurance and soldiering competition in the freezing temperatures of Northern Alberta in November – as a member of the 31 Canadian Brigade Group team.

The feeling of accomplishment is a regular occurrence in the Army, according to the young soldier. “My best day in the Army was back when I graduated from my infantry trade course. It was the first challenge that I had to overcome,” he recalls with a smile. “There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that you and some of your closest friends had just finished doing something great.”

Speaking about why Black history is important to him as a soldier, Corporal Monaco reminds us that Black History Month is a great time for historical reflection.

“It means a lot to me because it provides an opportunity to showcase the contributions that Black Canadians have provided and the sacrifices that they made during conflicts throughout history. It also highlights the heroism of Black soldiers that may have been skipped over in history classes being taught in school.”

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