Story By Stephen Dafoe
Photo Gallery By Stephen Dafoe & Lucie Roy. Lead image DND Photo by Grant Cree
Morinville – Main Street was closed to traffic Sunday morning to make way for 1 Service Battalion (1 Svc Bn), who marched down 100 Avenue to receive the Freedom of the City from Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi on behalf of the residents of the community.
Located at Steele Barracks, CFB Edmonton, 1 Svc Bn is a deployable field unit providing general support to units throughout Land Force Western Area. The battalion is made up of Battalion Headquarters and four companies: administration, maintenance, supply and transportation.
The Freedom of the City is regarded the highest honour a municipality can bestow upon a military unit and dates back to Roman times.
Lieutenant-Colonel Krista Dawn Brodie, commanding officer of 1 Service Battalion, led the battalion Sunday morning to a barricade erected at the west end of 100 Avenue where she was greeted by Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant Mac Richards. In ceremonial fashion, Richards led the LCol to the door of Town Hall where LCol Brodie knocked on the door with the pommel of her sword. After Mayor Lloyd Bertschi granted permission to 1 Svc Battalion to enter the town, the mayor inspected the troops and band, then took to the dais to observe 1 Svc Battalion march past.
In addressing the residents, LCol Brodie said it was common for a military unit to request permission of a chief magistrate of lord mayor before entering a town. Although largely ceremonial today, the honour is no less an important one. “It is an act of faith [and] of trust of the citizens in their defenders,” she said, adding it was an honour to participate in the ceremony during Morinville’s centennial year. “It is with humble gratitude that we, members of 1 Service Battalion, march through the streets of Morinville with swords drawn and bayonets fixed, with the drums beating and with the national flag flying.”
The ceremony, which was followed by a public meet and greet barbecue with the battalion, was the first of its kind in Bertschi’s four terms as mayor. It is one he is not likely soon to forget. “What an incredible event,” the mayor said, adding he had intended to say a few words at the podium but was left speechless by the ceremony, particularly reviewing the troops. “I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I was in awe, absolutely in awe doing the inspection of the troops. It was a very moving experience.”
But the mayor was not the only one left in awe Sunday morning. Seventeen-year-old Paige Brenneis, a sergeant in 3061 1CER Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, said she felt honoured to watch the ceremony. The timing of the ceremony coinciding with the tenth anniversary of 9-11 caused Brenneis to reflect on those who died during that September tragedy, those who have died in Afghanistan and those members of the Canadian Forces who are still serving there. “I got goose bumps just watching it,” she said of Sunday’s ceremony. “I just felt so honoured to be there. I just felt warmth come into me knowing that they’ve done their duty. They’ve been here for a reason, and people died for a reason.”
Brenneis said a military career is something she has contemplated; perhaps a role producing recruiting films in the military’s communication’s department or something in photography.
A step towards closer ties
Although Brenneis is contemplating a closer connection with the military after graduating from Morinville Community High School, members of council are hoping to forge closer bonds right away.
The mayor said he believes Sunday’s Freedom of the City ceremony will open the door for an even closer relationship with Edmonton Garrison. “There are lot of things that we could be working a lot more closely with the military base,” he said. “I think this will be a great way to open up that door.”
Mayor Bertschi is not the only one who believes Sunday’s Freedom of the City ceremony will make for closer ties with the base. Councillor Nicole Boutestein said she believed inviting 1 Svc Bn to receive the key to the city was a step in the right direction. “I don’t think our lines of communication are open enough with the Garrison and they have so much to provide us,” Boutestein said, noting she would rather see residents travel to Edmonton Garrison for swimming and other amenities not available in Morinville rather than travel to St. Albert because of the number of military families living in Morinville. “I would love to see a committee sit down with the recreation director out there to see what we could partner up with.”
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