Monday, November 10, 2014

Mersereau: We can't stray from honouring the past

A piece of the Berlin Wall that belongs to Mersereau
This past week I had the privilege of interviewing former army communications officer and Blackville native Warrant Officer Troy Mersereau. Son of Vera and Burton Mersereau and brother of elementary school teacher Twila Sturgeon.

Mersereau graduated from Blackville in 1986 alongside Blackville School's principal Rodney Buggie. He spent his youth in Blackville playing hockey and as a member of the Blackville Air Cadet squadron. He joined the army branch of the Canadian military in 1987 after working in Fredericton for a short while, trying to find his place in life.

Memorabilia from Mersereau's military career
Troy had a long and rewarding military career, having been stationed in numerous locations in Canada, including Petawawa and Kingston, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta; he also was stationed in numerous places overseas including Germany, Syria, Israel and three tours in Bosnia. Some of the answers that are given in the interview below are paraphrased and are not direct quotes.

Q: Why did you join the military? What would recommend the military as a career path to a graduate of today?

A: The military was always an interest to me, it offered security, and a trade without taking the more typical route through university. I would recommend the military to a graduate of today; it presents numerous opportunities that are often unheard of in the civilian world. It's a totally different experience, and if you're looking for an adventure that is never a dull moment, then the military is the right fit for you.

United Nations Memorabilia 
Q:Would you change anything about the path you choose if you could do it over again?

A: Not at all. I went in with a good attitude and made the best of what it was. There were some times when it sucked beyond belief, but if you have a good attitude and make the most of the situation, it is not as bad as it seems, those are the times when memories are made.

Q: Next week we are celebrating Remembrance Day and as a teenager and a student, I know what it means to me, but as a member of the military, what does it mean to you? And the military in general?

Vimy Barrack memorial
A: To me it's really just a time to reflect on friendships and experiences that I had in the Canadian Forces. As for the military in general, it is held as a sacred day; it is often a tough day as well, remembering lost friends and just lost service members in general.

Q: What is the most memorable Remembrance Day ceremony you have participated in and why?

A: In grade 11, I actually laid a wreath at Blackville School as an air cadet, and I can still remember that ceremony distinctively. However, no matter where the ceremony is held - either here in Blackville or in Bosnia - they are just as important, and I remember them all.  

More military memorabilia 
Q: Is there any part of the Remembrance Day ceremony performed by the military that is different than one that civilians put on, for example like the one in Blackville? What part of the ceremony is the most special to you?

A: Ceremonies everywhere that are held, by either military or civilians, are very similar everywhere. They all take a moment to remember all the service members that are no longer with us. There is no part that is special to me, because the whole ceremony is special just like the day.

Q: This summer I had the opportunity to visit Juno Beach, Vimy Ridge and the Passchendale Battlefields do these places have any specific value to you? And what value do they have to the military as a whole?

Warrant Officer Mersereau at the
Blackville Remembrance Day Ceremony
A: I was stationed at the Vimy Barracks in Kingston for a period of time. Everything that we did in Kingston was tied back to Vimy Ridge; we would get talks about the men like Sir Arthur Currie and how we should strive to be that type of leader. To the military as a whole, Vimy Ridge was the first victory that Canada won by ourselves. We had no help; it was only Canadian boys on the battlefield that day for the Allies. Even though we were under British control, the Canadian military and really the country of Canada found its identity in that battle. Now Vimy is a massive glorified monument and we talk about it as a glorious battle and treasured spot in Canadian history, but to the men that actually fought the battle it was basically a place to go and die. It was not all bells and whistles, there was no glory in 1917.

Q: When we consider the recent attacks and deaths in Canada that have targeted our military what role do you think these recent actions have when it comes to the impact of why Remembrance Day is vital and important in the 21st century?

A: Concerning Remembrance Day I think that it will be a little more difficult in the areas that were affected by these attacks; however from a security perspective it will generate a lot more concerns that we have never really had to face before in Canada.

Q: Speaking as a former member of the military, what would you want today's youth to know about Remembrance day?

A: Remembrance Day has a very important place in Canadian society, and if we stray away from having ceremonies and honouring our past and present military service members then it will be very hard to get back to it.

It was truly an honour interviewing Mr. Mersereau. The stories that he had were truly incredible and I could sit and listen to him tell them all day. Every student and staff member thanks Mr. Mersereau for his service and thanks every former and present service member for there service as well. Without these brave men and women, we would not have the freedom and privileges that we have today and we must keep Remembrance Day a prominent day in our society in order to pay our respects and honour our military service members. Lest We Forget.

by Graham Manderville