The Honour Guard in my opinion is the ceremonial way of saying thank you to members who have served as firefighters for such a long time.
I joined the Honour Guard for a few different reasons. My family, in particular, has a long history of military service. My grandfather was a paratrooper in World War Two, went into Normandy beach the night before D-Day, and helped secure some beaches. My late grandfather on the other side was a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and after that part of the century, it kind of slowed down in terms of military service being mandatory or required. There wasn’t really anything for me to do. Instead of join the military, I just figured this would be a good reason for me to pay homage, not only to my family’s history, but also to the Firefighters within Calgary and within Canada that have given up a lot for maintaining our safety. So it’s my version of military service that doesn’t necessarily require the military service background.
Can you tell me how participation in the Honour Guard has affected you?
Being a part of the Honour Guard has been excellent for me. It’s been really meaningful to see a different side of the job. It’s not just showing up at work, hanging out with the guys and the girls, going on calls, going back home, and kind of leaving work at work. The Honour Guard creates a certain special bond, it lets you not only get to know the new people on the job, you’re at their first day, at the graduation ceremonies, you’re there right until members have passed away and you’re at their funerals. You literally see the very start of someone’s career. Fresh, bright face on the job, and you’re seeing that guy who’s been around for 60, 70, 80 years and has finally passed away, and you’re saying ‘thanks for all you’ve done.
Can you tell us about a specific event or ceremony that holds special meaning for you?
I would say the very first time I ever saw the Honour Guard was probably the most special, most meaningful for me personally. It was at my graduation, as I was a new recruit about to head on to the floor, it was a pretty exciting time, everyone was a bit nervous as well. Classes had just finished and it was time to do our ceremony. We finally got our number one uniforms, and we kind of had been practicing the marching around. It was a little bit rough at first, but for the ceremony itself we knew what we had to do, we didn’t really know what the Honour Guard’s role was going to be but we knew they would be present. As soon as we marched in with the Pipes and Drums, having the Honour Guard lead the Chief in, it was all of a sudden this whole idea of being a firefighter on the CFD kind of made sense, like ‘wow, this is such a tradition’. This is so much effort and time that other people are putting in to welcoming you to this crowd. And to watch these guys march in with these polished axes, these polished boots, flies looking crisp and sharp, and their uniforms were immaculate. Everybody in the crowd immediately said ‘wow, this is something special, this is not just a normal day job.’
Another event that I can think of that would have, that really did mean a lot to me, was the first funeral I had to attend as an Honour Guard member. I was sharing the duties that day with the Chief, Chief Dongworth, and he had done, he has done obviously quite a few funerals in the past. So he offered to go give the cap, and the badge, and the folded flag to the widow of the member who had passed away. And just watching him, this man who’s obviously incredibly tall, in his perfect uniform, everything looks excellent and he did a fantastic job. To watch him walk up with that cap, folded flag, and the badge, hand it to the widow, there was not a dry eye in the place. He was just so professional, and to watch how that emotion, the emotion from the whole room, and to see the professionalism that the Honour Guard member had, the Chief had, giving that cap. It just kind of sealed the whole event up in one nice piece. It was the best way to say thank you and goodbye at the same time.