The final parade

In a few days, the future leadership of our country will suit up for the last time at the Royal Canadian Air Cadet camp at Springbrook.

In a few days, the future leadership of our country will suit up for the last time at the Royal Canadian Air Cadet camp at Springbrook.

But it isn’t just a matter of rising early on that final parade morning.

For the youth who chose to spend part of their summer acquiring new skills, knowledge and life experience, the final parade at the camp is the culmination of their efforts throughout the training year.

Courses will have been completed, exams written and graded, and rehearsals held for the graduation parade held on the final day of summer camp.

But this year, it is the absolute final parade of cadets at Springbrook.

Many hours will have been spent putting the final touches on uniforms for the parade.

The spiffed-up columns of teenagers will gather — “form up” in military parlance — and then march to the parade square for the final inspection under the watchful eyes of trainers, parents and guests.

Salutes, inspections, handing out of awards and speeches will take place on the tarmac — weather permitting — of the former Canadian Forces Base Penhold.

After the final salute, reviewing parties will then leave the parade square, to be followed by the cadets and staff.

They will be led by a colour party that, like every other parade it since 1966, carry the colours of the nation and Cadet League.

The hundreds of final cadets to be trained in Central Alberta’s summer training facility will then march off the parade square into history.

Already we have heard how emotional a time this last summer for training has been for both cadets and staff. The young people return home and either head back to school or pursue whatever professions they happen to choose.

Some friendships continue for many years after involvement with cadets and summer camps.

Tonight, about 200 former camp staff members — including this writer — cadets and former members of the Canadian Forces will gather for a reunion.

Although the event is being held outside the official circle of Air Cadet operations, it is a commemoration of a long history of cadet activities at former CFB Penhold, as it is affectionately remembered.

The gathering will be a military reunion of sorts since those who were involved as instructors were employed through a reserve branch of the Department of National Defence.

Thousands of young people have taken part in cadet activities here since 1966.

Some go on to careers with the Canadian Forces, although this is not compulsory.

Others — including members of my family as three siblings also went through the Air Cadet movement — will tell you it is a good source of discipline, responsibility and leadership, qualities that would well serve anyone in life.

The Cadet Program is for Canadians aged 12 to 18. They participate in a variety of fun, challenging and rewarding activities while learning about the sea, army and air activities of the Canadian Forces.

What’s wrong with rising early, making up your bunk — hospital style — polishing shoes, ironing your uniform (honestly, some of this stuff gets done the night before) and then forming up and marching to mess (breakfast) before 7 a.m.?

Isn’t that more productive than sleeping in after an all-night session of computer games?

Tonight I will reunite with former camp comrades I have not seen in 38 years.

Not all of our old friends will attend. Most of our former superior officers from those days are now gone.

Some of them earned the highest military honours in conflicts of the past and later continued their involvement with the betterment of the nation’s youth.

Working with those veterans was just normal to us at the time, but they were the country’s real heroes, the ones who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

After our camp involvement was done, we went our separate ways, into may professions, some to far-flung corners of the globe.

And after many years away from anything involving cadets, we will gather once again, not to herald ourselves, but to celebrate an organization dedicated to the betterment of our nation’s youth.

David Nagy is a former Advocate editor.

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