Your Honour, General Patterson, Col Zalvin, Honorary Colonels, Member of Parliament for Aurora-Oak Ridges Leona Alleslev, Member of Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora Kyle Peterson, Member of Provincial Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora Chris Ballard, Mayor Dawe, Chief of York Regional Police Eric Jollife, Fellow Commanding Officers, Distinguished guests, Friends and Family, Fellow Rangers.
Premierement, je voudrais remercier tout le monde qui a venue ici au’jourd’hui pour partager cette occaision avec nous autres. C’est un vrai plasir de voir tant de gens ici.
I believe that it is important that we take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional lands of the Chippewa of Georgina Island, on which we stand today. Chi Meegwetch to any members of that community with us today.
I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge our past. One hundred years ago today, the 20th Battalion was occupying the trenches in front of St Eloi, about 5 kilometres south of Ypres. It had survived its first major engagement of the war only a week before. The Regiment had achieved their objectives in that battle, seizing ground lost by the 6th Brigade, and holding that ground for a month before being relieved.
The trenches in that sector were reportedly waist deep in water, and the shelling was incessant - so much of the battalion occupied shell craters surrounding the trenches instead.
The 20th Battalion made a name for itself a the Battle of the St Eloi Craters, and spent the rest of the war living up to that reputation.
And now lets bring the focus back to today.
If you have taken a moment to glance at the programs that were distributed earlier, or the cover page at least, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ceremony today is about two people - LCol Thorson and I. I’d like to suggest to you that this is not the case, and that in fact, despite many indicators to the contrary, that we are incidental to what is occurring here.
A regiment is a remarkable thing. It is not a static entity that can be captured on an organization chart – it is an organic, living thing. Although we perceive the organization in relation to ourselves and our connection to it, as members of the Regiment come and go, the organism carries on without interruption. Therefore, the Regiment that exists today does not just perpetuate or honour or remember our history. It continues to live it in a manner that mere humans cannot.
The ceremony today is less about the change of commanding officer than it is about public recognition of the fact that the Regiment continues. It lives on. It sheds its skin but afterwards remains the same Regiment as it was before. It remains solidly rooted in the past while stretching outward into the unknown future.
What allows a Regiment to be this resilient, to have this cohesion, is something that is in clear evidence on parade today. It is an incredibly dense, tightly woven fabric of relationships. These relationships connect all of the members of the Regimental family together. This tapestry of people and organisations forms the foundation of the Regiment, and gives it it’s strength.
And so I want to take a moment to recognize each of the parts of this Regimental family, and the incredible people within it.
The soldiers of this Regiment are a remarkable group of people, who despite everything that you might have read about the “me focus” prevalent in their generation of Canadians, have made the commitment to serve their country and their community in their spare time.
Rangers such as Corporal Melissa Blair, who sets the standard for physical fitness in the Regiment and who recently deployed on Op Provision, or Corporal Dave Donaldson and Master Corporal Mike Sparks, who serve this community not only as soldiers but as Constables in the York Regional Police, are excellent ambassadors for this Regiment and the Canadian Army as a whole, not to mention role models within the community. To borrow a phrase, their Deeds Speak - a motto which the York Militia of 200 years ago shares with the York Regional Police of today.
I cannot thank all of the soldiers of this Regiment enough for their dedication and hard work.
The backbone of this Regiment are its Senior NCOs. We are blessed with a strong cadre of experienced Sr NCO leaders who are the keepers of the Regiment’s culture and traditions.
Whether it is Sergeant John Gugliemi, who recently passed the Canadian Special Operations Regiment selection, or Sergeant Denise Karsseboom, whose expertise in military finance is unsurpassed and who ends her 36th years of military service this summer, they are a group for whom it is the norm to excel.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the three RSMs with whom I have partnered over my term as Commanding Officer - Mr Lawson, Mr Goldenberg and Mr Atyeo. I could not have asked for a better fire team partner than any one of these gentlemen, who each exemplify the Ranger spirit.
I’m not able to fully express my gratitude to them for everything that they do to make this Regiment function, although I hope that they will accept this attempt to do so.
We are also blessed with an incredibly strong Officers’ Mess, who are as tight knit a band of brothers and sisters as you are likely to find anywhere in the Canadian Army today. They are a diverse group of lawyers, novelists, bankers, consultants, students, a farmer and a judge whose strength is their diversity and their commitment to the wellbeing of the Regiment.
The Officers of this Regiment have my profound thanks and respect for their leadership and care of this Regiment.
We are also blessed with an incredibly active and dynamic Regimental Council, who raise funds for the benefit of the Regiment and in many cases act as our memory bank as well.
Some members of Council, like LCol (retired) Kirk Corkery worked just as hard as the past Chair of Council as he did when he was the CO. Other members of Council, such as Kim Kerr or Brian North, did not serve with the Regiment themselves but bring an incredible and infectious enthusiasm to our fund raising efforts that are second to none.
Every member of Regimental Council is deserving of the Regiment’s deep gratitude, as well as my own.
As you have heard on parade today, the Regiment enjoys the support of an incredibly talented pipe band who quite literally travel the world, winning accolades for their music while representing the Regiment.
Whether Jack McLeod who has served for 30 years, or Piper Rowling whose first time on parade with us is today, their dedication is unparalleled.
And so to my friends in the Pipe Band, thank you very much for everything that you do that adds to the life of the Regiment.
It was incredibly humbling when I found out that there were civilian organisations in Canada and the United States that reenact and thereby perpetuate our Regiment as it was during conflicts ranging from the Seven Year’s War to World War Two.
Many of our re-enactors, such as Jim Millard, Julian Forbes or Chris Duncan - have previously served in the Regiment and continue to serve the Regiment by bringing our history to life. The value that they provide as part of our wider family is undeniable, and I cannot thank them enough for what they do.
Some such as Cameron Hart or Dave Sanderson do double duty, serving in both the re-enactors and the pipe band at the same time.
I have a great deal of admiration for everything that they do to build awareness of the Regiment and its history,
We are also blessed with three cadet corps, two of which share our cap badge, and all of which represent those human qualities - perseverance, dedication, physical fitness or commitment to fulfilling their civic duties - that we value as a Regiment and expect from all Rangers. They are excellent ambassadors for the Regiment within the community. I could not be more pleased that two relatively new soldiers to the Regiment, Corporal Kirk St John and Trooper Regina Mandrello began their service as Rangers in our cadet corps.
Heading up this wider Regimental organisation are two very fine Canadians, HCol Bricker and HLCol Oliviero. Aside from the stellar service they render to the Regiment writ large, they have each been a mentor to me over the past four years, and I quite simply could not have done this job without them. I have nothing short of profound respect and gratitude for each of them.
And finally, a key part of the Regiment which is too often forgotten is our families. For every sacrifice made by a soldier, there is almost always an equal or greater sacrifice that is made by their family. Just ask Tori Kloos, the wife of Sgt Jay Kloos. Sgt Kloos was first tasked on a course here in Aurora, which was then changed to Gagetown, and then delayed until he was finally sent there on almost no notice, to find out that the task was cancelled. Through all of this, she persevered as only the family of a soldier could. This is just one example, and I suspect that every family of every soldier here has at least one similar story.
I am incredibly grateful for all of the sacrifices made by the families of the Regiment, not the least of which is my own.
Stephanie, thank you for the many years of support that you have given to me and to the Regiment.
This is the fabric that makes this Regiment strong, and which has done so for many, many years. Our history is proof of that. But rather than being a laurel for us to rest upon, our history imparts a weighty responsibility on us to continue to achieve the high standards that have won this Regiment accolades, no matter what the task, over the past three centuries.
Eric, this is the organisation that today falls under your command. With your experience, your strength of character and your leadership, the Regiment will flourish. We are extremely lucky to have you, and I am extremely proud to hand over to you. Thank you for undertaking this great responsibility and for joining our Regimental family.
And this is what we have gathered here to celebrate today - the strength of the fabric of the Regimental family, both as it is today and as it will be in the future. We are here to acknowledge that, whatever changes may occur, that the Queen’s York Rangers remain - strong and ready to serve our country, in peace and in war.