By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario — The (CA) has appointed its first-ever Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the entire Army: a 15-year-old from London, Ontario.
In fact, the appointment was for just one day but the youth in question, Aiden Anderson, now has memories to last for years.
That day, December 13, 2018, was just one of five Aiden spent in the Nation’s Capital with the help of Make-a-Wish Canada, which grants the wishes of children suffering from critical illnesses.
Though he has been healthy for several years, Aiden was born with a congenital heart defect that has kept him in hospital frequently in the past and required four surgeries over his lifetime.
Aiden, a student at London’s Sir Frederick Banting High School with a keen interest in politics and military history, wished to experience a day in the life of the Prime Minister. His experiences included sitting in on Question Period and hosting a press conference just as the PM would.
In addition to learning about the Prime Minister’s role, he was able to cross another wish off his list by spending quality time experiencing the military way of life up close with the Army.
His day with the CA began with a gathering at which the Army Commander, Lieutenant-General Jean Marc Lanthier, was briefed by other senior leaders at the Army Headquarters in Ottawa.
The officers around the table introduced themselves to Aiden, who was uniformed in CADPAT, and explained their respective roles in the Army. CADPAT, which stands for Canadian Army Disruptive Pattern, the Army’s distinctive, disruptive camouflage pattern.
The CA has many Honorary Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels, LGen Lanthier explained, who count inspiring esprit-de-corps in their units among their duties in support of their regiments, adding that Aiden, as the first Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the entire Army, has done the same for the CA as a whole. Honoraries are a tradition going back more than a century in the Canadian Armed Forces. They are prominent private citizens, sometimes with military service, who volunteer to act as advocates for their regiments.
“Your courage, your resilience, your drive, and your quality as a person,” LGen Lanthier said, “are inspiring.”
That sentiment was echoed by Major-General Stephen Cadden, Commander of the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre in Kingston, Ontario, who spoke via video conference.
“Your story has inspired a lot of us down here,” he said.
LGen Lanthier also shared the collective gratitude of the officers at the briefing who, because of Aiden’s visit, had been asked to attend in the looser-fitting CADPAT rather than their usual more formal Distinctive Environmental Uniforms.
Aiden concurred, saying he found the comfortable uniform a relief after several days in Ottawa’s political sphere.
“I’ve been wearing a suit all week,” he said.
Next for Aiden was a trip across the Ottawa River to the headquarters of Le Régiment de Hull, an Army Reserve Armoured Corps.
Aiden and younger sister Isabella – who was along for the ride with their mother Courtney Holland – were more than pleased with the reception at Le Régiment de Hull. Members introduced them to some of the vehicles and equipment they use.
Both young people enjoyed exploring the regiment’s explosives disposal equipment, which included piloting a remotely operated robot. Mom Courtney, meanwhile, experienced the weight of a protective bomb suit.
Aiden’s knowledge shone through as he correctly identified a Bangalore torpedo, an explosive charge used to clear obstacles such as barbed wire, which he recognized from his own studies of the Second World War.
The family was impressed by an up-close look at one of the regiment’s Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles (TAPVs) – an experience made even better when they were invited to ride in the vehicle for the return trip to Ottawa and a meeting with Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance at National Defence Headquarters.
Gen Vance warmly welcomed his visitors, presenting Aiden with the Chief of Defence Staff Coin. Known as “challenge coins,” such coins are a long-standing tradition in military circles. Senior members can award their specific coins to deserving individuals to instill unit pride, improve esprit-de-corps and reward hard work
“I give it to excellent people,” he said. “And you are one of them.”
Gen Vance met privately with the family, who would then depart for the annual CA Headquarters Holiday Dinner, held at the historic Cartier Square Drill Hall in downtown Ottawa.
Ms. Holland expressed gratitude for the experience on behalf of both children.
“You really have given us first-class treatment,” she said. “Thank you.”