My name is Roland Biidwewidam Monague. I am Anishinabe from Christian Island in Southern Ontario. I am a retired Anishinabe Veteran who served with the Canadian Armed Forces from 1980 to 1990. I was stationed at CFB Petawawa for most of my career however had the opportunity to be stationed at CFB Lahr, West Germany from 1983 to 1987 during the Cold War era. This will be my first trip back to Europe in 30 years so this opportunity is a very exciting time for me.
I served with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery during my Military Career and served with E Bty Para. A paratrooper unit trained to jump into enemy lines doing what the artillery do best and provide the much needed Artillery support to the troops. As you may have read in the stories about Vimy Ridge there were many casualties by Canadian Soldiers as they tried to take possession of Vimy Ridge. With the continued barrage of Artillery fire and support the Canadians successfully took over Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917.
During the upcoming Vimy Ridge Festivities the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery will be firing a 21 gun salute in memory and honour of the key role the artillery played in the taking of Vimy.
The troops were trained several weeks earlier on the L5 Howitzer I was trained on. These guns have been decommissioned for use now for many years however have been placed back in active service for this special occasion. This too me is so exciting knowing the guns I was once trained on will be there.
Back home my community is very excited that I was selected to attend as former Artillery Sergeant, and former Chief of my community. One Elder has bestowed me with many small moccasin key chains handmade from local community members to be distributed to the veterans who will be in attendance. Thank you Bonnie Sylvester for these gifts.
Another exciting component of my journey here is the fact that these celebrations will not only occur on 9 April 2017, 100 years after the actual conflict but it is also in conjunction with what would have been my father Alfred King’s 89th Birthday. My father was a former Paratrooper and Korean War Veteran whom I know will be with me here in Spirit.
This is truly an honour for me to be attending alongside many First Nation Veterans who I know will be here to not only celebrate what marks Canada’s role during WWI but to acknowledge those fallen Veterans from our communities who did not make it home. Four members from my community served during this era and never returned home. Although I am not familiar with their service I do know two actively served with an Artillery Unit however were killed in action and I can only assume they were at Vimy. If I get close enough I will certainly look for there names on the big monument at Vimy.
Thank You to the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Pat Madahbee and the Regional Chiefs for providing this once in a lifetime opportunity for us: The Veterans. Chi Miigwetch.