Nov. 11 holds a special place in Justin Edwards’ heart.
It’s often an emotional time for Edwards, who is a member of the military police at the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR) in Nanoose Bay, as he remembers veterans who have fought in wars past and present, as well as friends who are still suffering the long-term effects of serving overseas.
“It’s great to remember the different sacrifices people have made and the different times they stood up for what they believe in,” Edwards said. “It’s important for us to stand up and remember that ‘yes, we went overseas, we went to war and it wasn’t for nothing’. It’s good to learn the lessons we’ve learned and make sure they’re passed down from generation to generation.”
Growing up, Edwards always had the urge to help people and had dreams of becoming a police officer one day. Joining the Canadian Armed Forces wasn’t on his radar until he was 20 years old, after seeing recuitment campaigns in his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.
Edwards decided to go and ask questions without thinking anything of it, and within less than a week, he had started basic training to be an armoured crewman.
After one year of training, Edwards was posted with Lord Stratcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), an armoured regiment in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spent the next five years. Shortly after, he did a five-month tour in Afghanistan in 2010 where he was a gunner and loader for one of the tanks.
Despite his love of the military and the camradarie between soliders, Edwards admits life on the road took a toll on him, his wife and their four daughters. During one year, Edwards was only home on and off for about a month-and-a-half of the year, coming home for two to three days at a time, before having to leave for exercises or pre-deployment training.
Now, the 32-year-old’s career has come full circle and he’s fulfilling his childhood dreams as a military police member, posted at CFMETR, where he’s served for the past year.
As a military police member, he’s responsible for dealing with the security and policing needs of the base, which has less than 100 personnel. “When I joined the military I really wanted to do my part for my country. Afterwards, I fell in love with it. I love the military and couldn’t see myself being out of it,” said Edwards, adding the new position has allowed him spend more time with his family and volunteer in the community.
“I had always had a dream of being a police officer … it [making the transition to the military police] was the next step of still being in the military and fulfilling the one dream I had when I was younger … it’s the idea of being there for people which I’ve always been really drawn to.”
Despite all the things he’s gone through overseas, Edwards hopes on Remembrance Day, the spotlight will once again be on the sacrifices of veterans.
“For me, it’s about remembering my friends, a lot of them have mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” said Edwards, noting he has struggled with PTSD, but not to the extent some of his friends have.
“I still remember a lot of them when we got into basic training together, and then now I talk to them and they’re not the same people anymore.”
Find more Remembrance Day features on the Gazette’s website.