The military influence of family
Tradition is important in the Canadian Forces. Battle Honours, Mess Traditions, and various ceremonies are ways the Forces keep past memories alive, while mentoring the future. Military traditions in families are another important aspect to military life. Many members decide to enlist because their relatives have once worn the uniform.
Private Mark Hargreves decided to join the 5 Field Artillery in Victoria, B.C., In May 2010. Both of his grandparents were once members of the Forces.
“One of the ways I wanted to honour them was to wear the uniform,” Hargreves said.
Each of his parent’s fathers served in WWII. His mother’s father was a gun captain in the Merchant Navy. His other grandfather was trained as a paratrooper. He was never deployed into combat, but since he was a minister he worked as a padre in England.
“I figure if they could go over and sacrifice their youth and risk their lives in defence of their country I could join the reserves,” Hargreves said.
Having family ties to the military is not uncommon and is the reason why many people end up joining, said Captain Chuck Cadick from Fort Garry Horse, who worked as recruiter for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and North Ontario for seven years. Cadick said that 30 per cent of the people that enlist have or had relatives or family friends in the Forces.
When the Forces needed to increase its recruiting number from 4,200 to 8,000, Cadick looked at the trends of why people joined and found it is because of that close personal connection.
“That is why we started going to bases and encouraged recruiting there,” he said.
Unlike with Hargreaves, family tradition played the opposite role when major Ken Orr decided to enlist with the Forces when he was 17.
Orr’s grandfather was one of the Canadian troops sent to South Africa to help the Britain during the Boer War, and Orr’s description was terse. “Being a soldier in the Boer War was not fun.”
His grandfather died when Orr was only six years old. Orr did not hear any first-hand experiences from his grandfather, except that he “did not like his experience and convinced my father and uncles not join. I joined the military because [I read] a lot of history books in elementary and high school.”
Despite his grandfather’s wishes, Orr spent 39 years in the Forces, 37 in the regular forces and two-and-a-half in the reserves.
Family connection in the army is not all about the past. When they were 17, identical twin sisters Master Corporal Amy Franck and Master Corporal Billie Franck joined Fort Garry Horse. They did their basic training and trades training together. Franck said having her sister around helped.
“I never felt alone as opposed to some people,” she said. “I always had a friend around.”
While the sisters had a good experience since they were together it caused stress for their parents at times. In 2008, the pair, along with Billie Franck’s husband, was deployed to Afghanistan. While the sisters were able to see each other at their camps, their parents were often worried about the fact that their only kids were serving in a war at the same time. The deployment lasted eight months, and the trio returned to Canada safely.
Both sisters are still in the full-time regular forces, but they no longer work together. Although they no longer spend their days together, Amy Franck said their relationship is closer than it has ever been because they now have breathing room.
Having family in the military is often a mixed blessing. Sometimes a parent’s bad experience can discourage against joining, while grandparent’s stories often are the catalyst behind enlistments. For better or for worse, family tradition continues to keep military recruitment numbers high.