In advance of Remembrance Day 2015, I felt obliged to write a post on the subject of military service. I served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 7 years as a Reserve Soldier.
My service in the Canadian Armed Forces was one of the most instrumental experiences in molding me into the man I am today.
There was not much distinction or glory in my service.
I never served overseas or fought in combat. The worst injuries I ever sustained were sprained ankles, minor electrocution, and one time on an ex having a twig jab me in the eye during a patrol.
I loved weekend field ex’s. While studying Software Engineering at the University of Calgary, I would go on an ex every weekend, for months on end. That said, the only accomplishments that I look back with personal satisfaction were extensive recruiting and PR initiatives with my unit, serving Cadets and youth.
As a soldier, serving my local community in Calgary were the high points of my military career.
I voluntarily released long before I was willing to release.
In 2004, I participated in my first 3-Gun Competition with the a small team of soldiers from my unit in CFB Edmonton.
I was immediately so enamored by the idea of competition shooting and gun ownership that within a year, while off duty, I completed the Canada Firearms Safety Course and had my Non-Restricted and Restricted Firearms Possession and Acquisition License.
I bought my first set of guns and did what every young, first time gun owners does early in their shooting career these days. Take moronic poser photos and post them on Facebook.
Later, I took members of my military unit to a local shooting range.
Some had just returned from Afghanistan, some were about to ship out. The nature of the conflict and the short supply of soldiers with our combat support trade meant many of them were fast tracked for deployment without proper weapons training.
I remember stories of soldiers, friends, learning while under enemy fire, how to operate a pistol or shotgun. Some described how that lack of training contributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With that, I took it upon myself while off duty to give my fellow soldiers a chance to hone skills I thought might someday save their lives – how to operate and fire a handgun and shotgun under target shooting conditions.
As a 24 year old Corporal, I was often dumb, hot headed, arrogant, and disrespectful to my peers. All the things youth are a cause and excuse for.
When word came down that I was to be commissioned to the rank of Second Lieutenant, some of my peers and superiors grew jealous. While I was out of the country for a vacation they set out on a campaign of ruthless character assassination, spreading false rumors and lies that I was planning a copycat of the recent Virginia Tech massacre.
They had photos of me from Facebook to prove it: A short haired Asian guy posing with guns.
When I had returned from my vacation, a Calgary police tactical team greeted me on my way home from my civilian job, weapons locked and loaded. They served me a warrant to search and seize all firearms related material. It was a combination of the most humiliating and terrifying experiences I had ever gone through and I had no idea why it was happening.
The next parade day at my military unit, I was summoned by my Commanding Officer. Standing at attention for what seemed like an eternity he gave me a recorded warning for conduct not-befitting and ordered me to see a military psychologist for a psychiatric assessment.
It was only a few months later when in the Calgary courthouse every detail from a Military Police investigation was revealed to me. On the basis of nothing but hearsay, the MP’s and my chain of command deemed it was necessary to contact the RCMP and Calgary police and initiate the warrant, the raid on my home, the search and seizure, and everything that transpired thereafter.
In the end, after 6 months of court hearings and psychiatric assessments, my name was cleared and my property returned to me (all my guns) but the damage was done. No charges were laid, but the crown prosecutor pressed for me to have a 5-year firearms prohibition. I represented myself and the judge ruled in my favor.
Realizing what had happened was all a misunderstanding (albeit one caused by malicious intent), my Commanding Officer promoted me to Second Lieutenant. It was too late for me. My reputation at my unit was utterly destroyed. I commanded no respect up or down the chain of command and one of my former superiors who betrayed me was to be my 2IC after my promotion.
I was so traumatized after the ordeal I felt completely incapable of serving and submitted my release papers weeks after being promoted. Releasing was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I was a reserve soldier for 7 years up to that point, and it was a fundamental part of my identity. It felt like a part of me was dying on the inside when I turned in all my kit, realizing I would never form up and fall in, never go on ex, never run the SAT range, never teach cadets, never wear a uniform again.
For years, I battled severe depression that I was only able to overcome through faith. An ardent atheist before, it was only after I received the grace of God through Jesus Christ, was I able to find peace and move on. I forgave my transgressors and repented to God and to my enemies the transgressions I did against them.
7 years have passed.
I have a successful career, a beautiful wife and three daughters. I am financially secure, in good health, and an active member of my community. I am a bigger gun nut than I was that sunny autumn day in 2004, when I did a run down carrying a C7A1 with a team of soldiers at the range on CFB Edmonton.
In recent days, I had started target shooting with some young reservists. Young men a little younger than I was when my unpleasant episode transpired.
I was inspired by their energy, enthusiasm, commitment to cause and loyalty to their unit. Having the opportunity to serve with men of such character lead me to contemplate rejoining the Canadian Armed Forces, a thought that had lingered in my mind from the moment I released.
That changed on October 19, 2015.
After weeks of witnessing the disgusting, irrational, divisive conduct of politicians, media, many of my fellow Canadian citizens and even (and especially) myself, I was brought back to a moment 7 years ago. I was standing in ASU Calgary after I had filled out my release paperwork for turning in my kit. The supply tech asked me why I was releasing. All I could say was:
“I just don’t love my country anymore.”
That feeling then was what I felt the night of this past election.
I will never serve in the Canadian Armed Forces again.
When we separate, establish our own nation and with it, an “Albertan Armed Forces,” I will be the first civilian to sign up for a commission. If I am fit to serve, I will do everything in my power to serve my community and my fellow soldiers with honor, humility, and a loving, God fearing heart.
Until that day, I will just be another veteran from Alberta. Some Asian guy in a green jacket with a red poppy pinned on his chest yearning for the day he is part of a country he loves enough to serve as a soldier for again.
That country is a free, independent Alberta.