As students who have gone through the motions for as long as we can remember, we are all familiar with the concept of Remembrance Day. But no one truly understands the significance of November 11 like a member of Canada’s Armed Forces, like Master Warrant Officer Cal Gibson. Joining the military in 1979, MWO Gibson endured basic training in Cornwallis, New Brunswick and later completed trades training in CFB Petawawa, Ontario before serving at bases across Canada and in Europe.
When asked why he decided to serve his country, MWO Gibson said he was excited by the opportunities and benefits offered, including travel and job security. He also “felt a strong sense of family duty to join” and do his part, especially considering his grandfather and uncles served in both world wars. “I have left different operations overseas,” Gibson said, “And it is a very gratifying sense of service to see the change for the better in the local society and economy that is recovering from war and strife.”
MWO Gibson currently works in CFB Shilo at the Regimental Headquarters of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, which is located in the RCA Museum on base, where he conducts research into the history and heritage of the Canadian artillery units, including answering questions posed by people looking to find more information about how their family member served in a war or how they perished. He obliterates the all too common “Grandpa died in the war” labels maintained in many family histories, and also acts as administer to the museum’s website, www.artillery.net. In regards to upcoming Remembrance Day, this is what MWO Cal Gibson had to say:
The Quill: What significance does Remembrance Day hold for you?
MWO C Gibson: I try to remember different battles, in particular the small forgotten battles in faraway lands where Canadian soldiers fought and died, so they too are remembered as much as those that I knew personally. Did you know on 11 Nov 1918 when the guns fell silent in France the Gunners of a Canadian Artillery Battery were being overrun and fighting for their lives in Northern Russia, not all lived to the see the 12 of Nov 1918? Their WWI did not end until Feb 1919.
TQ: For those who haven’t attended a service in Shilo before, what generally takes place there as opposed to other communities, like Brandon for example?
CG: The parades are really the same in format, just a lot more uniforms about on the base. Most of the Shilo soldiers actually go out to the surrounding towns for November 11 ceremonies leaving very few for the Base its self.
TQ: What do you do to celebrate Remembrance Day?
CG: I always attend a service on November 11 regardless of where I am. Even when deployed on Operations, I pause to remember.
TQ: What do people who are not a part of the military or are unfamiliar with it miss when they attend a Remembrance Day service? What does your perspective add to the experience?
CG: It has made them very personal and vivid. The thousands of Canadians that have fought and died overseas all fought for the freedom of an oppressed people; we are not a conquering army we are a liberating army. There are very few Armies in the world that can say that. The Dutch people remember very well, [and] it would be a sad day when another nation remembers our fallen and we do not.
TQ: If there was one thing you’d like people to take away from this Remembrance Day, what would it be?
CG: We as a nation have repeatedly asked the fallen to go to the aid of those in need. They paid the ultimate price on our behalf; we cannot break faith with them, or the families they left behind. Freedom is not free. Our fallen have paid the price on our behalf and more importantly they paid for the people of other nations who asked for our help to [also] have freedom.