Local reserve regiment marches July 8

By Cecilia Nasmith

Chief Warrant Office Dean Stokes (Regimental Sergeant Major) and Corporal Chad Kellar (Cobourg Recruiter) with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

Corporal Chad Kellar (Cobourg Recruiter) and Chief Warrant Officer Dean Stokes (Regimental Sergeant Major) of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment reserve informed Cobourg council this week of their July 8-9 Regiment's March and Tree Planting that will begin at their Cobourg location at the Willmott Industrial Park.

CWO Stokes also took the opportunity to make Mayor John Henderson an honourary member of the regiment.

Along with Peterborough and Belleville, Cobourg is one of the regiment's three zones in an area roughly 100 by 180 km.

The Department of National Defence has issued a directive to recruit actively, CWO Stokes said, and the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment has succeeded in this.

“We are currently the fastest-growing regiment in Canada,” he said.

“The march is to mark the history of the regiment throughout the entire footprint - north to Peterborough to Highway 7, stop for the night, and march to Belleville.”

Established in 1920, the regiment can trace its lineage as far back as 1863. The date of the march was chosen to commemorate the regiment's July 10, 1943, landing in Sicily. from which many miles were marched as they made their way into Holland and France. The commemoration is a celebration of the regiment's history and the sacrifices made by its soldiers, as well as a lead-up to a July 10 ceremony at the monument at their Belleville armoury. There, two stones will be unveiled, honouring those members of the regiment who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and those lost in peacetime deployment.

“We have had a few soldiers die in recent times, and we felt it fitting to put their names in stone,” CWO Stokes said.

Also, to left and right of the cenotaph, they will be planting a tree donated by the Highway of Heroes campaign.

Looking ahead, Cpl. Kellar said, they continue to recruit. Any Canadian citizen at least 16 years of age who has not passed his or her 57th birthday and has a minimum Grade 10 education is eligible, he said – indeed one of their most recent recruits is a 51-year-old woman who has begun her training.

Beginning the process is as easy as visiting their website to fill in an application. From there, a regiment representative will be in touch to arrange to set up aptitude testing, physical testing, medical work and an interview at a time and place convenient to the applicant.

Reservists often have full-time jobs, Cpl. Kellar said, and those in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment also work as police officers, correctional officers, physician and lawyers. All bring a wealth of knowledge to their military careers.

“This regiment claimed the most battle honours of World War II of any Canadian regiment, and they were volunteer – it shows what volunteers with pride and passion can do. We can turn the tides of war.”

The regiment is also a great option for post-secondary students, offering full-time summer employment for the first four years and otherwise only requiring a minimum of service on Thursday nights plus one weekend a month.

“It's an opportunity to make money, learn how to be a good soldier and move on to leadership,” Cpl. Kellar said.

By the time a reservist gains a degree, there is also a military history to his or her resume, not to mention such intangibles as maturity and stress-management skills that can put one ahead of the game.