My son was not a straight A student. He was not athletic. He was not a natural born leader. He was a kid ready to fall through the cracks. Then when he was 12 he joined 2963 Seaforth Highlanders Army Cadets.
I had encouraged him to join cadets because he liked canoeing and camping – things his father and I just were not that into. It was April and there was only 2 months left of the training year, so I told him he had to commit to the 2 months and then if he did not like it he did not have to return in September. That first night the CO (Commanding Officer) asked him why he wanted to join cadets. He replied, “My Mom said I had to.” The CO said he should give it a try and sent him to meet the other “green stars” – the first year training level cadets. The others greeted him warmly and were very welcoming, and at a glance, you would have never known that he was meeting these other kids for the first time. They formed up, and made room in the ranks for my son. Then the CO announced that since they had not done any drill practice all winter they would be doing nothing but drill from that night until ACR (Annual Ceremonial Review). I did not know what ACR was yet but it sounded important. My heart sank. I had told my son that he would have fun and here he was being told he was going to be marching for 2 months straight! The cadets went outside to march around and around the parking lot at the Sechelt Legion. It began raining and still they marched. I was sure by the time the night was over my kid would never want to come back. When the cadets came in from marching all wet and with rosy cheeks, I asked my son how he liked it. His face lit up and he said, “That was awesome! I’m really good at marching!” Really, he wasn’t that good but he felt he had found something he could be successful at. I liked that he was getting some good exercise from it too. That was it, he was hooked. From that moment on, my grubby disheveled little boy would transform himself into a neat clean young man each Tuesday evening without me even having to tell him to get ready. In the end, they did manage to find time for some rock climbing, canoeing and a pizza party.
That 2-month tryout became a 7-year journey. In grade 7, he did a history project on the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and was given permission to present it to the cadet corps. He did such a good job, that from then on it was his job to teach the green stars the history of the regiment.
Next, my son began setting goals for himself, the first one, to win the “best attendance award” at the end of the year. He achieved this 5 years in a row with perfect attendance. Next, a shiny silver metal – the Legion medal – volunteering in the community, showing esprit de corps at and away from cadets and having a positive impact on the general morale of the corps. The biggest goal he set for himself was to be promoted to Warrant Officer. To achieve that he would have to dig deep and become a leader using the skills the cadet program had been teaching him all along. He would have to teach, guide and look out for the younger cadets, helping them to become better cadets, all difficult things for a teenager with social delays. When the CO called him up to receive his promotion, he was beaming with pride!
He held the position of CQM (Company Quarter Master) at the corps, a position of responsibility. Cadets would come to him to exchange uniform items they had outgrown. He assisted the officers in outfitting new cadets with their uniforms and teaching the new cadets how to care for them. It was his job to issue equipment and supplies to cadets prior to and during field exercises and then receive and inventory supplies and equipment at the end of the exercise. He took pride in keeping the storage rooms neat and well organized.
In March son turned 19 and aged out of cadets. He is still not an A student but cadets gave him the opportunity to earn high school credits away from the classroom, how to set goals for life and work towards his career goals. He is still not athletic but cadets taught him how to live a healthy active lifestyle. He is still not a natural born leader but cadets have given him the confidence and skills to tackle any challenge that life may throw at him.
Support Committee Chair
2963 Seaforth Highlanders, Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps