I have never apologized for my patriotism, and, after having served 26.5 years in a Canadian Forces uniform, I don’t intend to.
I love our country and our flag but it’s been years since I have celebrated our troops with the Royal Canadian Legion on Nov. 11. In my drinking days I would be among the first one at the bar following the parade. After I quit drinking I got tired of being told there was something wrong with me because I wouldn’t drink. I also got tired of being “encouraged” to have a drink on Remembrance Day and decided that instead I would skip the parade altogether and go for a run, alone. Regardless of the weather, Nov. 11 is a running day.
RELATED: Previous blog post: Running alone.
Well, not quite alone.
Proudly flying over my head is the maple leaf and my thoughts are with our veterans and serving personnel. I know it’s a few months away from Nov. 11 but in watching the 2018 Winter Olympics being held in South Korea and seeing so many maple leafs and watching our young athletes represent our country my patriotism needs an additional expression.
In 2017, I decided I would do my 11.11K run inside, while carrying the Canadian flag around the track at the Cold Lake Energy Centre. My flag is 23 inches by 34 inches and my flagpole is a humble broom handle 54 inches long. My plan was to train while carrying the flag over a 10-day period and on the 11th day I would run the 11.11K. I was concerned about my wrist strength as I have arthritis in both wrists. So, there I was on Nov. 1 running in circles on the track with the flag flapping above my head. Ah, the strange looks I got. On day two when I stopped to hydrate, a walker asked me what I was doing. On day three some more people asked. On being told, they all thought it was a great idea.
The track is hot and sometimes crowded so I thought it might be a better idea to share venues with the concourse above the ice rink in the same building. Nice and cool. The following day I ran above the rink just as a minor hockey team came on the ice. After a couple of laps I saw one player point his hockey stick in my direction and say something to his buddies. To my great delight they sang a few bars of O Canada. I raised the flag a bit higher and they raised the sticks in reply. They weren’t saluting me, they were saluting the flag. I thought, “great kids, great parents for raising them that way and great coaches to encourage them.”
On Nov. 11, I got to the Energy Centre early because I wanted to be on the track by the 11th hour. The EC was already filling up with uniforms and families there to watch the parade that was to take place on the rink floor. It had totally slipped my mind that a contingent from 4 Wing, Cold Lake had been assigned to parade there that morning. Never one to miss an opportunity to showcase the flag I ran up to the concourse and did two full laps around the rink. I found out later a lot of families thought it was part of the ceremonies.
Having done that I returned to the track and began my run. I kept an eye on the wall clock and at 10:50 a.m. I paused my run, folded my hand on the flag pole, bowed my head in remembrance and counted to 180. Then I resumed my run. I was so pumped by everything I ran 17.11K. Now, the track overlooks the Reid Fieldhouse which on this day was set up for a dignitaries’ luncheon, among them, the 4 Wing Commander who graciously consented to having a picture taken with me and my flag.
I can’t speak for the rest of Canada, but I believe that in Cold Lake, Alta., patriotism is alive and well.