I was recently out of the Army before getting on to the Fire Department, and when the call came out for an Honour Guard, I knew marching quite well, that was drilled into me in the army, and I thought maybe I could contribute somewhat.
The Honour Guard attends a huge variety of events, meaning that members encounter plenty of weird and wonderful situations throughout their service. Nobody understands this more than Rick Choppe, a former Captain at Number 26 Station, who joined the Guard in 1972.
Before the 1997 World Police and Fire Games in Calgary, the Department needed someone to pose for a statue to be unveiled during the competition. Rick stepped up to the task, immortalizing the Guard in bronze. The process was long and complicated, involving plenty of time spent covered in a plaster cast. Sadly his uniform was ruined in the process, but the statue remains to this day. You can see Rick’s statue standing proud by the Fallen Firefighters Memorial outside Calgary City Hall.
As someone who was a member for the Guard from nearly the beginning, up until his retirement from the department in 2006, Rick also enjoyed some other cool experiences. One thing the Guard has always prided itself on is not saying no to requests. When City Hall came calling, requesting a guard for the Stanley Cup in 1993, Rick had the good fortune to be selected for duty. Another time, he ended up as the security detail at a local charity event featuring golf legend Arnold Palmer!
These events offer a welcome distraction from the heavy emotional toll of burying colleagues and friends. The passing of Morley James still weighs heavy on Rick, bringing back tears and memories from that shocking day whenever the topic arises. When on duty, Guard members don’t let their emotions get the better of them- they must put their emotions aside to serve the memory of their colleagues.