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“Passing the Torch”

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This year the Saskatoon City Remembrance Day Parade at SaskTel Centre on Friday November 11th, will be commanded by the Commanding Officer of the North Saskatchewan Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Sansom, CD.

LCol Sansom and his Command Team – Deputy Commander Major Mike Graver, CD and Regimental Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Jason Balcaen, CD, epitomize generational service in the Canadian Military, a tradition passed onto them by their forefathers. All three have long careers in the Canadian Military with deployments overseas but each also has a family history of military service.

In the case of LCol Sansom, his maternal grandfather, Alexander Niven Stables, served in the First World War with the British Royal Artillery in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). His paternal grandfather, Private Thomas Sansom, also served in the First World War with the 46th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. The 46th Battalion drew recruits from southern Saskatchewan as well as Saskatoon. The Battalion’s most famous member was Sgt Hugh Cairns, VC, MM a Saskatoon resident who won the Victoria Cross for bravery in November 1918 just days before the end of the war. In the Second World War two of his uncles, Art and Charles (Chuck) Sansom served in the Royal Canadian Navy. This legacy of service was one of the contributing factors for LCol Sansom to join the military. He spent 30 years in the Regular Force with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry prior to his transfer to the North Saskatchewan Regiment. LCol Sansom has deployed to the Middle East three times and thought about his grandfather’s own experiences. “No matter where you’re serving in the Middle East, it’s a different experience – the heat, the culture, even the landscape are very different from what we are used to. I can only imagine what it was like for him to go from the Scottish Highlands to the desert in order to fight a war.”

Major Graver, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, also has family who served. His maternal greatgrandfather, Corporal Charles Richards, served in the First World War and his grandfather, Frank Richards, served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during the Second World War. “Both my grandfather and greatgrandfather died when I was too young to know them, so I never had the chance to speak with them about their military experiences. Nor were their stories ever passed down. Like so many Veterans, after their respective wars they both came home and carried on with their lives. I often wonder what their experiences were like compared to my own service in Afghanistan. I do commemorate each year however, on November 11th.”

Regimental Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Balcaen, has a generational connection with his Regiment through his Grandfather Joe Balcaen and his great-uncle Bert Balcaen, both Second World War Veterans who were members of the Regiment. Becoming the Regimental Sergeant Major of the same Regiment his grandfather and great-uncle served in was one of the proudest moments of his own service.

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