IV David Chee-Hing
Why does the Reunion Weekend never fail to bring out the best in the cadets, ex-cadets, staff and all who have some connection the college? This year, it was especially noticeable. It could be that spirits are high throughout the cadet wing, as weeks of drill practice and preparation finally culminate in Saturday’s Badging Parade and Sunday’s Lining of the Route. But above all, it is the first year class, whose vigour and enthusiasm spread faster through the Cadet Wing than a nasty flu bug in Ft. Haldimand. The Reunion Weekend brings ex-cadets, friends and family from all across the nation together in Kingston to celebrate the rich history and tradition of RMC, a truly unique and important institution .
The 2007 Reunion Weekend commenced Thursday evening, with the Annual Legacy Dinner held at the Senior Staff Mess. This year, the dinner celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. In my previous years I had never been involved in the Legacy Dinner, but I always heard many good things about the event. I decided that this time, in my fourth and final year as a cadet, I would ask to partake in the dinner. I approached Mr. Oliver at the RMC Club, and inquired about the possibility of attending. Serendipitously, Mr. Oliver had just finished reading one of my articles in the RMC Precision Newspaper, and because he thought it was particularly well written, allowed me to go to the Legacy Dinner!
I did not know what to expect on Thursday night. Upon arrival to the Senior Staff Mess, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Outside the entrance, Brigadier General Lawson conversed amicably with second and third year cadets who listened attentively in a rare opportunity to speak face to face with their Commandant. Inside, I watched as the Cadet Wing Sergeant Major, MWO Colbert, spoke thoughtfully to a fourth year, passing on words of advise to the cadet just about the begin her career as an officer. I found my fellow classmates, dressed sharply in scarlets and polished shoes, as they mingled amongst the ex-Cadets, and other guests, engaging in conversation and sharing stories and laughter. I enjoyed the friendly social atmosphere, and the many interesting conversations I had with a variety of different people. My friends from the United States Military Academy at West Point, cadets Brian McCord and Erin McQuarrie, were instant celebrities, and they too were impressed with the feelings of camaraderie, and the sense of fraternity that pervaded throughout the night.
During the dinner, each table had a mixture of current RMC Officer Cadets and ex-Cadets, which made conversation flow naturally and easily. There were so many experiences to share from both groups. Unfortunately, my sponsor 5220 Gerald Turcotte (RMC 61), was unable to attend. However, there was no shortage of conversation from J.R. Digger MacDougall (RRMC RMC ‘61), who shared his fascinating experiences with fellow fourth year OCdt Rachel Clow and I. Mr. MacDougall, a proud and prominent member of the Personnel Selection (PSEL) branch of the Canadian Forces, spoke to us candidly about the history and role of the PSEL Branch. It also turns out that Mr. MacDougall had trained one of my favourite professors at RMC, and former PSEL officer, LCdr (ret.) Dean Crooks who teaches psychology. I also spoke at length, with Mr. 5159 Normand Duceppe (CMR ’56), who shared some of his experiences overseas and the challenges of being a francophone at RMC during his four years as member of the Cadet Wing.
The keynote address by 19662 Major William Fletcher (CMR RMC ’95) resonated with all those in attendance. Major Fletcher managed to convey his experiences in Afghanistan in such a way that placed the role of RMC in perspective. He motivated cadets to appreciate the value of their RMC education, and reinforced the fact that it will prove to be indispensable in our future careers, wherever they may take us. As the night progressed, and after listening to the many interesting speeches and addresses, I realized the degree to which ex-Cadets are involved in the college, and the pride they have in this institution. The connection between cadet and RMC is hardly severed upon commissioning, and it seems that each graduating class, as time progresses seeks to give back to the institution which changed them in so many ways.
The Reunion Weekend breathes new life back into the college. Every year, the return of ex-Cadets during this special weekend rejuvenates the Cadet Wing. It emphasizes the importance of RMC, and what it means to have graduated from the college. This year’s Legacy Dinner marked the start of a truly amazing weekend, for all those involved. For many cadets, the rigours of military college can at times seem insurmountable, but the Legacy Dinner and Reunion Weekend activities show us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. The return of the ex-Cadets during Reunion Weekend reminds present day cadets of the special bond that exists between members of the college, past and present. After attending the Legacy Dinner, these feelings have galvanized, and many cadets have renewed appreciation for both the role of the RMC Club, and their university’s distinguished place in Canadian society.