CP Rail Remembers.
By Sgt Christopher Zubkowski
On November 10th Cpl Ayrton Balfour and I departed for Calgary to participate in CP Rail’s Remembrance Day ceremonies. We arrived in Calgary and checked into the Fairmont Palliser; needless to say it was a vast improvement over the abandoned hockey arenas that we have stayed in in the past. In the lounge we were introduced to some of the other participants of CP Rail’s Remembrance Day ceremony including Staff Sergeant Ben Pepich from the United States Marine Corps who was another serving member participating in the Ceremonies. Once we begun talking it was like we had known each other for years. It always amazes me how soldiers who have never met before share a bond that allows them to communicate like they were long-time friends, even though they had just met.
That night Ms. Katie Hill, a representative from CP Rail, won the heart of two Alberta soldiers by treating us to a great steak dinner. Afterwards, she dropped a bit of a bomb shell by informing us that we were going to attend and opera at the Calgary Philharmonic called “Afghanistan: A Requiem.” I am not going to lie and say that I am an expert in the fine arts, and although I’m sure many of the nuances of the performances were lost on me, the meaning was clear and powerful. After the concert we attended a meet and greet and had the privilege of meeting and interacting with more soldiers, and the writer of the Opera. We even ran into LCol Paul Peyton and RSM Bill Crabb, the CO and RSM of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), whom I am sure were a lot more familiar with the opulent surroundings then we were.
On Remembrance Day the parade was formed up at Gulf Canada Square and the ceremony started. It was a truly lovely Alberta November day at a comfortable minus 15. Everyone listened intently as senior vice president of operations, Scott MacDonald said to the crowd "Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten," As I stood there and listened to the speech unfold I was filled with a profound sense of pride. For those that aren’t aware, CP Rail chose to honour those who had served by halting all the trains across its 14,700 miles of track at 11:00 in order to observe two minutes of respect in silence. They would then sound a long train whistle in tribute to both Remembrance Day and Veteran’s Day. It was amazing to know that a company as large as CP Rail would take the time to pause all work along their entire network to remember not only the fallen, but all veterans, past and present; it was truly inspiring.
Following the parade, there was a short reception which enabled civilians, cadets, dignitaries, and family members to interact with those soldiers present. I was in awe when I received a thank you card from a 10 year old girl, which thanked me and other soldiers for our service to Canada. Once the reception ended, Katie Hill escorted us to a vintage CP train for lunch. This train was used by John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even the Royal Family. It was a great feeling to be treated like these famous people in recognition for our service. All of the soldiers present were asked many questions about our service and the hardships we face when deployed. The civilians were quite surprised as to some of the conditions we have lived in.
In true military fashion, after all tasks were complete the military contingent, made their way to the local Legion for “coffee” with the vets. The stories flowed with the “coffee” and the pipers played on. I have noticed that there are fewer and fewer vets appearing at Remembrance Day celebrations every year. For the ones that have left us, and the ones that remain still, “Lest We Forget.”