Continuing the Legacy
By Dawnieca Palma, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs
Rushes of tourists. Angry revving from busses and cars. Howls of laughter escaping cellphone conversations. The sounds of downtown Ottawa mornings compete against each other. But, in the middle of city soundtracks, there is a somber calm, a silence.
Bagpipes crack through the quiet. The sentries march to its beat. They take their place at the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And the silence resumes.
Unveiled in 1939, the National War Memorial commemorates Canada’s military involvement. It was initially commissioned to honour the Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers who fought in the First World War, an instrumental part of Canada’s history and identity.
This year from August 8 to November 11, the Government of Canada commemorates the 100th anniversary of Canada’s Hundred Days, the three month period at the end of the First World War where Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers earned a reputation for their tenacity and skilled attacks on the Western front.
Among the sentries that honour this legacy at the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are Corporal (Cpl) Jeremy Mazerolle and Cpl Benjamin Deley. “What the Canadian soldiers did over there really shaped how we live today, 100 years later. They did a great thing, a great sacrifice and it’s something we Canadians will always remember,” Cpl Mazorelle says on the importance of Canada’s contribution to WWI.
Both Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) soldiers carry a proud history with them as they stand sentry.
Growing up in Saint-Antoine, New Brunswick, Cpl Mazorelle recalls the picture of his late great-uncle, a bomber pilot in WWII killed in action. Accompanying that memory are stories of his grandfather who was also an infanteer. Although he passed away early on in Cpl Mazorelle’s childhood, this incited his entering the CAF.
“I’ve always been appreciative of what they’ve done and that’s why I decided to join. And again, that’s why I decided to join the infantry, because of my grandfather’s legacy,” he reveals. “And my great-uncle was killed in action, so being here and honouring both of them is a huge honour. And when I stand up there, it’s what I think of.”
Now an infantry reservist, Cpl Mazorelle serves with the Calgary Highlanders, a unit that originated in Calgary, Alberta on April 1, 1910. Not only does he continue his great-uncle and grandfather’s military legacies, but Cpl Mazorelle is now part of over 100 years of valour and honour.
He explains the unit’s participation in WWI further. “We have huge battle honours with our unit going back from right at the beginning from the Battle of St. Julien, until the end of the war. It’s an honour for me to be a part of keeping that tradition alive and have those battle honours on our colours with Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and the Hill 70 Battle.”
As for Cpl Deley, he shares his passion to serve with several other family members, including his grandfather, who was briefly in the army, and his aunt, who served on HMCS Bonaventure with the Royal Canadian Navy in the 1960s and 70s.
The line goes back further to the First World War. His paternal grandmother was in the Air Force as a cook. Also serving in the First World War and the Second World War were his great-uncles.
But, his decision to join the infantry stems from his uncle’s military past as a veteran that has served both the American and Canadian Army. “He is my inspiration every time I put on this uniform,” Cpl Deley states. “Just standing up there, honouring not only your family members who have served, but all service members past and present, it’s really overwhelming.”
Cpl Deley’s unit, the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, originated in Port Arthur, Ontario on July 3, 1909. Their long list of battle honours includes the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Ypres.
The contribution of the brave Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers from the First World War and Canada’s Hundred Days ripple and resonate with these CAF members as they perform sentry duty. “I think it’s very important citizenship-wise that we remember as well as honour those who have fought in the past. It’s certainly an honour to be able to represent my regiment here in the modern day,” says Cpl Deley.
The relevancy of these battles has not diminished for the general public either, an apparent observation made during their time as sentries at the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “Just standing sentry, you see the reactions of some people because there are a lot of tourists that come here. It has been an absolutely wonderful opportunity,” remarks Cpl Deley.
The Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers that fought in Canada’s Hundred Days left a legacy that present-day CAF soldiers continually hope to honour and respect. In the case of Cpl Mazorelle and Cpl Deley, they wear this legacy proudly alongside that of their families.
“I think they’re models of what we always try to be. They are examples that we all think of when we think of Canadian soldiers in the First and Second World Wars. We want to honour and continue their traditions and at the same time thank them for the inspiration. I know a lot of people who joined the military to continue the tradition that they started,” Cpl Deley articulates.
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