The Cochrane Cadets went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip earlier this month to stand at the site of an iconic First World War battle on its centennial anniversary.
“It was overwhelming just being there,” said Bradly Clark, Cochrane Cadet about how he felt to stand at the Vimy Ridge Memorial, where 100 years ago Canadian soldiers were heralded for taking the position from entrenched German forces.
“I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and it made me feel really proud that we went over there and fought not only for our freedom but other people’s freedoms too.”
Clark considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity to travel with the cadets because the 18-year-old has almost “aged out” of the corps.
When asked his favourite part of the trip, the cadet said it was “honestly just an awesome experience.
“It was very crowded and busy … a little overwhelming but definitely an interesting experience,” Clark said.
“It was pretty awesome – a nice feeling to finally accomplish your goals.”
After two years of fundraising $100,000, the Cochrane Army Cadets left for Europe on April 2 and returned to Canada on April 11. They visited England, France, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands during their eight-day stay.
“We got into Europe and hit the ground running. We went to London and saw war museums and went to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey – we also (attended) a lot of ceremonies,” said Trina Arseneault, cadet parent and supervisor.
“It was a wonderful trip. Very educational.”
In addition to visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, located in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, on April 9, another of the cadet’s favourite tour stops was Dieppe, the site of another major battle involving Canadian troops. It was there allies launched a major raid on the small French port community during the Second World War. During the Battle of Dieppe, more than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed and thousand more were wounded and taken prisoner.
“(The trip) was fun and interesting. There was a lot of information my brain couldn’t keep up with but it was cool,” said Araya Arseneault, 12, Cochrane Cadet who travelled with her mother and brother.
“My favourite part of going there was probably when we went to see the cemeteries because I got to see all the people that served and I thought it was kind of cool and sad to see all the gravestones.”
The Cochrane Cadets (also known as Cadet Corps of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment) were part of the reported thousands of Canadians at the ceremony. Lt. Don Richards, with the local chapter, said approximately 34 Cochrane youth attended the ceremony.
“Going over there was emotional seeing what the soldiers had to get to to take the ridge,” explained Patrick Hardiman, Cochrane Cadet, noting he has a new appreciation for the world wars.
“It was really cool to go as a group and see the site with a bunch of friends.”
The Cadet Corps of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment accepts registration for members between 12 and 18 years old year round. Membership is free and there are no fees associated. The group meets every Tuesday at the Bow Valley Baptist Church.
“Cadets has definitely taught me a lot of life lessons – there are so many experiences I honestly wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Clark said.
“I think it’s an amazing program and everyone who can should join.”
For more information visit www.kocr.ca.