By Stephen Dafoe
Alexander – A mixture of laughter and tears were present at the Alexander Community Hall Sunday night. But the mixture of emotions stemmed from a single cause, pride in a young man from the community who is going off to serve his country, and for whom the community gathered to show their love and respect with a proper send off.
Nineteen-year-old Private Kevin Lafleche leaves for Gagetown, New Brunswick Wednesday to begin his career with the Canadian Armed Forces. Lafleche, who has been waiting for his posting for the past 14 months, will spend the next four to six months taking heavy artillery training in Gagetown before receiving his next posting.
Lafleche’s decision to join the military began in the summer of 2009 when he, along with 84 other Aboriginal youth, graduated from the Bold Eagle Program at CFB Wainwright, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
The six-week program provides Aboriginal youth with summer employment that combines military training with First Nations cultural awareness. Graduates of the program are enrolled in the Canadian Forces Army Reserves and are given the option of an honourable discharge at the end of the program or continued employment with the Canadian Forces. The decision was an easy one for Lafleche, and he credits the Bold Eagle program with helping to guide him on his career path.
But like the mixture of emotions expressed by his friends and family at his send off, Lafleche is also experiencing a mixture of emotions. “I’m getting nervous and excited at the same time,” he said, adding that he is excited to begin his military career but nervous about leaving his home and family.
But Lafleche’s nervousness may be unfounded, considering the overwhelming support he has in his community, not only for himself but for his decision to become a soldier.
During Sunday evening’s gathering, Lafleche’s many qualities as a young man and member of the community were expressed by Lafleche’s parents Lyle and Valerie and by many members of the community who have had the opportunity to watch him grow.
“I have nothing but the utmost of respect for him for making the decision to move on in life,” said Ken Burnstick from Alexander’s Community Leadership. “It’s going to be a challenge for the family. They’ll be worrying about their son and their brother, and wondering about him. But the good Lord will watch over him.”
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Similar sentiments were expressed by Tribal Councillor Bernard Paul and Kipohtakaw Education Centre Director Edna Arcand.
“I have no doubts he will accomplish what he has set out to do, his desire,” Arcand said. “I was very proud of him when he finished Bold Eagle. That meant leaving home, but he was able to do that. We’re looking forward to getting together again in four years when he has achieved and accomplished what he set out to do.”
But for some in the community, including Cory Arcand, Lafleche is not only doing something positive for himself, he’s setting a role model for those who are coming up behind him.
“This young man sitting here today is taking a big step for a lot of people, not only himself but the community he comes from, Kipohtakaw,” Arcand said. “I’m kind of proud to see my nephew doing something for himself that you don’t see a lot of young people take the initiative to do.”
Lafleche’s grandmother Maxine also expressed her pride in a young man whom she said has always been an excellent grandson. “I’m going to miss him,” she said. “I think everyone’s going to miss him. But I know when he comes home; he’s going to be a man, a man that everyone will be proud of.”
Lafleche is hoping to be home over Christmas to reunite with his family and friends.