Remembering those who have fought, fallen, and those still fighting for our country

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On Remembrance Day we wear our poppies proudly and think about all the sacrifices our soldiers made for us.

But Nov. 11 is not only about remembering our past. It’s also a day we remember those who are still serving our country. The Calgary Journal had the opportunity to hear the stories of some of these soldiers from the 41 Canadian Brigade Group.

Editors Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity

Private Ben Kohlen

0-1Private Ben Kohlen joined the military 18 months ago, as he wanted to help people in the community.

Photo by Ashely Alcantara

Tell me about your experience so far?

Things are intense on course; one of the memorable things is the experience of being sleep deprived. For a week, you more or less go with no sleep at all and towards the end you are asked to make decisions that in theory would really have a significant impact — it’s all simulation of course. It’s been challenging but having the opportunity to rise to that challenge is extremely rewarding.

What have you learned from our Veterans?

Respect. You look at the sacrifices that other guys have made and you realize that these people are, or were, very much like you when they started. They’ve been formed by their experiences, they’re good people that were willing to write a blank cheque to the nation and in some cases it gets cashed in, whether it does or doesn’t though they all took the risk.

What was basic training like?

It’s funny how much more efficient you can become at doing something you think you already know, like shaving, getting yourself dressed, making sure you have everything you need for the day in very little time. My last course, they woke us up at 4:40 a.m. and 45 of us were supposed to be formed up and ready to exercise at 4:45. You have five minutes to get yourself together, dressed and get out of the door.

Craftman Buddhika Wickramasinghe

0-2Craftman Buddhika Wickramasinghe joined the military to gain more life experiences and a new perspective two and a half years ago.

Photo by Ashely Alcantara

Do soldiers today have it better off than our veterans did?

I’m not too sure how the vets had it back then. I am a psychology student and from what I hear, the mental health services have come a long way since then. The military knows how to take care of their soldiers and we’re taught how to cope and deal with it.

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

It’s why I wear the uniform. The people before me that wore this uniform made the ultimate sacrifice. They’re the reason why I’m in this country, why I’m free to do what I want, free to pursue an education and that’s a day I pay my respects to them and I wear this uniform as proud as I can.

What was basic training like?

You step into basic training and whatever you thought you knew – you don’t. They throw stress at you and see how you handle it. At first you question, is this really necessary? There were a couple of points where I thought, am I supposed to be here? My parents used to tell me, ‘get the best marks, be better than everyone else.’ You show up with that mentality on basic where you think you’re better than everyone else, you’ll find out fast that you’re not so hot after all.

Sapper Owen Tuckey

0Sapper Owen Tuckey joined the military three years ago. It’s a family tradition.

Photo by Ashely Alcantara

Do soldiers today have it better off than our Veterans did?

One thing that comes to mind is the Military Family Resource Centre, that didn’t exist back then, now there is an official system, which supports us.

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

It’s a day we get to stand out as a group and be proud of who we are. You get to publicly show respect and be a united group. It’s actually really cool to be in it. It’s one thing to watch it, but being in it is a whole other game.

What has changed about you since entering the military?

Working with a group. In school if I could avoid a group project I would. Also at the end of the day everyone is still human so sometimes you have to take a step back and think before acting in certain situations.

Private Adrian Kubitza

Tell me about your experience so far.

The amount of things you experience as an individual and as a group is just astronomical, there’s so much that happens in a short amount of time. You come into a group of people you’ve never met 0-3Private Adrian Kubitza joined the military three years ago to serve and defend his country.

Photo by Ashely Alcantarabefore and you gel together, you live together, you breathe together, you shower together and it’s an experience. You become a unit, you function as a unit and it’s extremely rewarding. It’s something you remember for the rest of your life and the people you never forget.

What does Remembrance Day mean for you?

It was always very important to me. Some people might have their opinions on what they hear in the media and what they perceive is going on, but at
the end of the day it’s the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing makes me more proud than to honour those who have served and those who have fallen.

What has changed about you since entering the military?

For myself it’s the ability to realize my faults and own up to them. If you’ve made mistakes you have to rectify it and not be afraid to own up, which was a big thing for me and a lot of that had to do with confidence as I think that’s a common denominator amongst us here.

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