Ponoka can be proud of their members serving

The Canadian Armed Forces have always played a vital role in defining what Canadians stand for. Canadians should always be proud of the good work and positive things that Canadians serving do and have done to make our world a better place.
At the 2008 Ponoka Stampede the theme is a Salute to the Armed Forces, recognizing and honouring the work members of the armed forces have done.

(Left to right) Kevin Rowland

(Left to right) Kevin Rowland

By Tiffany Williams

Editor

The Canadian Armed Forces have always played a vital role in defining what Canadians stand for. Canadians should always be proud of the good work and positive things that Canadians serving do and have done to make our world a better place.

At the 2008 Ponoka Stampede the theme is a Salute to the Armed Forces, recognizing and honouring the work members of the armed forces have done.

Ponoka Stampede Association president Blake Butterfield thinks it is very important to recognize the members in the armed forces.

“With what is going on in today’s society you have to remember what they are doing. It is also important to remember that right or wrong it’s not their decision and they believe in what they are doing,” said Butterfield. “It is because of them we can do what we are doing.”

Ponoka has had many who have served over the years and are currently serving. The following is a list and a short biography of some of those who are serving and who have recently served our country.

Kevin Rowland

Rowland was born and raised in Ponoka and didn’t leave Ponoka until he was 43. He says that he will always consider it his true home. He and his wife Billie-Jean currently own Bedrock Fitness in Ponoka with relatives who manage it in Ponoka.

Rowland is currently a Corporal working in CFB Shilo, Manitoba as an LCIS Tech (Land Communications and Information’s Systems Technician). For his basic training he went to St.Jean, Quebec with additional training at Gagetown, New Brunswick, Edmonton, Wainwright and Kingston, Ontario. He works on communications equipment in all types of military land force vehicles and a wide variety of other electronic devices as required. He says that he does a lot of field work in support of artillery guns with no two days being the same.

Rowland was a member of the Air Cadets in Ponoka when he was a teenager and always wanted to serve his country.

“As Canada was minimally involved in world affairs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the motivation was also minimal,” said Rowland. “With the alarming increase in world terrorism, and the very real threat to Canada, as seen through the 9-11 attack, it was obvious that some of us had to step forward.  The military’s needs and my interests collided with Canadian Forces educating me at NAIT in Edmonton.”

He is currently scheduled to go to Afghanistan with Task Force 5-09 in February 2009 for nine months with his training starting in Edmonton.

When he found out about the theme of the stampede he was very pleased with the recognition.

“The Ponoka Stampede is an icon of the way of life in Alberta and the western world.  History has proven that our ‘way of life’ is paved through our ability to defend our beliefs and our ways,” says Rowland. “Without our military, many of the activities we take for granted in the free world would be non-existent.  The Canadian Forces stands alongside the rest of our country’s infrastructure that allows us to recreate.”

Craig Paterson

Paterson is in the 15 Service Battalion reserves in Edmonton for the past 12 years. He also served in the Navy reserves for seven years in the 1980s. Cpt. Paterson parades with his unit every Wednesday and second Saturday. He also does weekend exercise every other month in Wainwright and Didsbury and just completed a month of training at CFB Gagetown.

Paterson is a full time lawyer who balances being in the reserves and his job. He would not be called into active service unless the War Measures Act was declared and the last time it was put in place was in the 1970s during the FLQ Crisis.

He decided to join the reserves because they recognize it is a part time career.

“In the regular army they have total control of your life. I wanted to serve my country I just didn’t want to be controlled by my country.”

He notes that 25 to 30 per cent of active members serving in Afghanistan are reservists who have who have volunteered to go overseas.

He thinks that this year’s stampede theme is really great and he has seen a real shift in attitude towards the armed forces.

“When I first started people would swear at me and now people come up to me thanking me for being in the forces and doing such a good job. This is with people from all walks of life, it is really great.”

Maury Gratrix

Cpl. Gratrix served as a sniper in the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Edmonton for five and a half years. He is now working as a welder and decided to get out of the military to concentrate on raising his family. He did his basic training in St. John, New Brunswick and his infantry training in Wrainwright.

He did one tour in Afghanistan and decided to join the military after 9-11 because he felt that it was something that he needed to do.

“I think it is important for the local community to recognize the troops and that it’s not just faceless soldiers in Afghanistan. It’s your neighbours, your friends and people that you might recognize on the streets on a daily basis,” said Gratrix. “Whether people support the war or not people should still support the troops.”

Marty thinks that one of the ways that Canadians can show support for the Canadian troops serving is to participate in Red Friday by wearing red on Friday.

Marty Gratrix

Master Corporal Marty Gratrix is a combat engineer, ICER, who is currently based in Edmonton. He has been in the military for eight and a half years and has completed training in Borden, Ontario and CFB Gagetown. He has been on three tours one in Bosnia and two in Afghanistan.

Kurt Spelrem

Pvt. Spelrem was born and raised in Ponoka. He is currently stationed in Edmonton with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He has been in the armed forces for two years and has completed training in Edmonton, Quebec Saskatchewan.

Chris Orlesky

Corporal Chris Orlesky of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadian) joined the Canadian Armed Forces in September of 2001. Cpl. Orlesky took his basic training in Gagetown, New Brunswick. From there he was posted to Canadian Forces Base Edmonton. After taking tank training at CFB Wainwright, Orlesky returned to Edmonton to continue to train with his regiment. The regiment, along with the tanks were deployed to Afghanistan in September of 2007, making history as this is the first time that Canadian tanks were used in a hostile environment since the Korean Conflict. Orlesky and his family have been posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Trevor Greene

Cpt. Greene has served his country for 10 years. He took his navy training in Esquimalt, B.C. and his infantry training in Gagetown, and Edmonton. He has served in Esquimalt, Quebec, Vancouver, B.C. and Afghanistan.

Greene wanted to serve because of pride and tradition. His father was an RCMP officer and his grandfather was in the First World War. He had worked in Japan as a journalist and was proud of the way Canadians were regarded.

“I wanted to contribute to it.  I was compelled to do my part as a defender of peace.  Lester B. Pearson came up with the concept of peacekeeping.  Since then Canada has been on the forefront of peacekeeping.  I wanted to do my part to perpetuate the Canadian tradition of peace,” said Greene. “Every Canadian should do their part whether it’s charity or service because we need to be upholders of the democratic freedoms and traditions we enjoy today.”

He loves this year’s theme and thinks that it is an honour and privilege to serve and be saluted by the stampede.

“It’s also important to salute the families of the soldiers who stand and wait and raise their children in the Canadian tradition.  All three branches of the armed forces are serving Afghanistan.  The army of course, the air force is flying helicopters and the navy is standing by off the coast to intercept smugglers and suspected terrorists,” said Greene. “We should be proud of the army.  They are doing a difficult job very well to bring peace and prosperity to a war torn country.  Lots of soldiers are signing up for multiple tours because of the sense of pride and satisfaction they get from doing their jobs.  The results are tangible.  They are providing schools, fresh water and food and emancipating the women from oppression.”

He was injured while on duty in Afghanistan and is currently receiving treatment in Ponoka at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.

All of our men and women serving in Afghanistan are true heroes and we should be proud of all of them.