Updated: Feb 25, 2019
This morning I woke up and made my way down to Point Pleasant Park for 0900 hrs. Gaetan Tremblay, local veteran, organizes "Work Out To Remember" every year as a way to remember the fallen and feel how they felt getting prepared for Combat!
In the military on Remembrance Day, soldiers attend a service and then head over the local legion and have drinks with their comrades and the older veterans (hoping to hear some stories). This is tradition.
When I was medically released from the military I avoided Remembrance Day services for a couple of years and felt very guilty about it. Since then I make it a point to attend the service in Halifax at the Parade Square or go to Convocation Hall in Wolfville. It took me awhile before I started wearing my medals on my civilian clothing, but I was told by many other soldiers to wear them because I earned them. To be honest I still struggle with this. On my tour in Afghanistan, a rocket detonated off a tree about 20 metres from a group of us in a forward operating base (FOB). Rockets were pretty consistent around dinner time. Anyways, I took a piece of shrapnel to my upper back/side against my rib cage. This was followed by a very surreal black hawk ride with an injured Afghan soldier back to Kandahar Airfield where I had the shrapnel removed.
When a soldier is injured overseas they receive a Wound Stripe that is sewn on to the sleeve of their dress uniform. The Sacrifice Medal is a decoration that was created in 2008 as a replacement for the Wound Stripe and given to members of the Canadian Forces or allied forces wounded or killed in action. I received this medal. When I look down at my chest to my medals, I think about how small my injury was when so many soldiers who have received this same medal never came home. Even so, it has taken time, but I am very proud to wear it.
To learn more about Canadian military honours you can click on this link: Orders, Decorations, and Medals.
I think a lot of Veterans want to avoid the Remembrance Day services and lay low around Nov.12th: get out of town, chill at home, be with family and friends, or get out for a hike, and most likely have a couple of beers for those who are no longer with us. We all have our own way of remembering.
Gaetan's response to Remembrance
Day is heartwarming.
He brings veterans and soldiers together and in doing so begins to bridge the gap between military experience and civilian understanding of that experience. He does this by giving civilians a little taste of the military's physical training.
He had us filling sandbags, running with and using the sandbags for various exercises, crawling under concertina wire, and running through the edge of the freezing cold ocean water and having us lock arms and sit backwards into the water and do sit ups. All the while yelling at us and throwing the odd smoke grenade to create more of an experience. He did not hold back and I fucking loved it!
Interview with Gaetan:
Me: How long did you serve in the in the Canadian military and where? What was your job?
Gaetan: I joined the military in the summer of 1988 and served 10 years until the summer of 1998. I was a Naval communicator, Naval Communications Electronic Technician and Navy Diver. I served onboard the HMCS Athabaskan during the First Gulf War, where I also spent many missions with foreign special operations teams. I had the honour of being one of the first Canadian troops to return to the Canadian Embassy in Kuwait. I also served onboard the HMCS Iroquois at which time I spent time in the Former Yugoslavia, and again many different Missions with NATO troops. While serving in other units I had the opportunity to ‘visit’ many other parts of our world... some in peace, and some to make peace !
Me: How many years have you been doing the Workout to Remember and why is it important to you?
Gaetan: I’ve been doing the Workout to Remember for four years now. I set the event up to help bring awareness to civilians that might not understand what our military members go through on a daily basis. To show them how military members work under some very adverse conditions... and do so without hesitation ! This is important to me so that people don’t forget the many sacrifices that service members make. Some members have paid the ultimate price with their life... while others pay the price every moment of their life ! This workout also shows people that everything is possible if your mind is in the right place ! There is absolutely no obstacle that can’t be overcome in life... NONE !
Me: Both serving members, veterans, and civilians participate in this event. Does this workout encourage dialogue about war and conflict/bridge the gap between military experience and civilian understanding of that experience? How so?
Gaetan: I think this workout does create dialogue and understanding. By showing people what we do in the military and the sacrifices we make, I think that civilians begin to understand our experiences a little more !
Me: Can you tell me about your mantra in life and how you continue to show up and support the military and encourage people (military and civilian) to get out there, exercise, explore the outdoors, and be good citizens and their best self?
Gaetan: My mantra in life is simple... live every day to the fullest ! Nothing is perfect in life, and it will always have its ups and downs... but you can certainly enjoy perfect moments ! It’s important to stay positive about absolutely everything ! Treat everyone with respect and never forget who you are ! As I get older I realize how important it is to just enjoy the time we have on this earth ! It passes quickly !
Me: What was your favourite "motivational" quote from today?
Gaetan: Your mother can’t help you now ! Keep your ass down before it gets shot. We live as a team... and die as a team. Use the fear... use the fear. Your body can accomplish anything... it’s your mind you have to convince.
Gaetan is one of the most positive people I know. You can catch him teaching kickboxing at Rogue or find him somewhere out in the wilderness hiking, kayaking, and simply just enjoying nature and loving life! You can also find him on instagram!