Sitting in the lobby of his home at Mt. Cartier Court, Revelstoke resident and veteran Cameron Thomson took some time to reflect on his service history ahead of Remembrance Day.
This year, Thomson will participate in the ceremony at the Revelstoke Cenotaph on Nov. 11. “It doesn’t come free,” said Thomson about the freedom Canadians enjoy today.
Thomson served in the Royal Canadian Regiment from November 1975 to August 1982. He was posted in Petawawa, Ont., and completed two tours of duty in Cyprus and Germany.
He joined the army when he was just 17 years old. A military recruiter came to his school one day in northern Ontario, and he decided to enlist so he could get out of English class.
After enlisting and gathering all the documents he would need, he hopped on his motorcycle and rushed home. He gave his mother the papers.
His mother, confused, asked him what she had just signed.
“You just gave me permission to join the army,” he laughed.
Soon after, he was off to Cornwallis for boot camp. He said he was given a buzz cut and assigned a bed according to where his name was in the alphabet.
“They just file you like a filing cabinet,” he said with a smile.
He learned how to shine boots, make a bed, iron clothes, march, and carry a weapon among other things. “Military is all about discipline,” said Thomson.
Directly after boot camp, Thomson was posted in Petawawa as infantry. His first overseas posting was in Cyprus, an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, where he represented the Royal Canadian Regiment for the United Nations. He spent his time in Cyprus as a platoon commander driver. “I had a pretty good job,” said Thomson.
“I happened to be the baby of the battalion, so I got a real cushy job.”
When it was just Thomson and the platoon commander, he said they were on a first-name basis.
His tour in Cyprus lasted four months. After that, he was posted in Baden, West Germany.
He spent four years in the Armoured Defence Platoon, where he said he was tasked with ‘blowing up tanks’.
“The Cold War was still kind of on at the time,” said Thomson about his time in West Germany.
The missile system he operated shot massive, five-foot missiles over distances of three kilometres.
During his service, Thomson also took time to pay tribute to his Scottish roots by taking up the bagpipes. The Royal Canadian Regiment converted one of their empty buildings on the base in Baden into a ‘band shack’ where they would play bagpipes and drums.
After his service, he returned home to Ontario and learned how to run a sawmill. He arrived in Revelstoke roughly 20 years ago and has lived in the community ever since.
Coming from a family with a rich history of military service, and as a veteran himself, Thomson has a deep appreciation for Remembrance Day and has been a participant in commemorating the day each year.
During his service in Germany, Thomson had an 81 mm mortar detonate next to him, taking the lives of two of his best friends.
Thomson also took time to recognize those who served before him.
“I just tried to hold up my end of the bargain,” said Thomson. “They fought for our freedom and died, and we gotta defend that.”
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