To the Class of 2022, and everyone at RMC
Tragedy has struck, and we are all shocked and saddened. To lose four of our own, so early in life, is horrific and heart-wrenching. I know each of us feels for the family and friends of Andrei, Andrés, Broden and Jack.
As the College and families find a way to deal with the awfulness of the event and the necessities that follow, each of us can do our best to:
– be there for family and friends, without waiting to be asked. Just do what needs doing, and what we might want done in their place.
– allow ourselves and others to fully grieve, attend the memorials if possible, spend time for the needed flow of emotions and mutual support.
– reflect on the brief preciousness of life, and how to safeguard our own and others’ where we can.
– live life to the fullest, on their behalf. Wring all we can out of ourselves, and the opportunities our lives will bring – hopefully long and joyful and prosperous, filled with laughter and grace.
I sombrely salute the fallen, commiserate with their beloved ones, and wish everyone my very best at this year’s graduation, with four young men in our thoughts.
13738 Chris A. Hadfield
Colonel, Astronaut ret’d
Dear Class of 2022 and Fellow Canadian Military College Family Members:
The Country and the Canadian Armed Forces have faced a stunning shock, but you, as graduating cadets in this class of 2022, with the immediate families, have most acutely and directly suffered this loss of life. Doubtlessly you’ve been counselled and have had some opportunity to grieve. I suspect at this point, more words of condolences are likely of limited value, particularly given the painful confluence of this recent tragedy with the significant step forward you are making after years of work. So much remains in front of you.
Possibly then, a few short concrete suggestions might be more relevant in this demanding situation:
First, although at this point it may remain an abstract concept, be assured – you are not alone. Please trust me that as you march off the parade square you’ll keep marching into a life-long array of Canadian Military College relationships bound together by a shared ethos and sense of character. You’ll see how over the years these relationships will flourish and the memory of your friends will never be lost.
A second consideration is a recommended framework to consider, sooner rather than later in life, particularly given your career choice. This framework is anchored in character and is referred to as ‘Stoicism.’ This is NOT the popular misinterpretation of Stoicism, specifically the suppression of emotions. To the contrary, and as educated Officers, you will appreciate it as the discipline of engaging directly, dealing with, and processing emotions; this is the exact opposite of hiding from natural emotions and/or not acknowledging them. Understand that many things are outside your direct control and the ‘reason’ may not always be clear, but the only option is to find and accept the pain – then, face it and process it. As leaders in the Forces, in society, as well as within your families and networks, you will be expected to provide direction, and this is the only way to manage grief and maintain personal ballast. You were chosen, and succeeded in large part, based on your natural character; RMC has polished and sharpened that character over these years, and it dovetails perfectly with the bedrock of Stoicism and your grit:
• You control your perceptions
• You can direct your actions properly – balance reason and emotion
• You must recognize and accept what is outside your control
Derived from: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.6
One last word: You don’t bury your friendships with your friends. The Life-Play you shared to date is not defined by this one last, albeit tragic, Scene. These comrades always remain part of the family, so celebrate them.
To conclude this letter as it began – please remember you are not alone and are now part of the Canadian Military College family. We share the loss, and we march together.
I wish you good luck and fortune.
13760 Mark H Mansfield, RMC 1982
Dear members of Class 2022,
40 years ago, like you, I was getting ready to graduate with the class of ’82. Final exams were over and we were rehearsing for graduation, there was excitement in the air that I could barely contain.
At 22 nothing came to mind other than a full life ahead with a career as a pilot. Unfortunately, as I progressed through my career, life had other plans for many of my colleagues, friends and family along the way.
I learned the hard way that life is a precious gift and not completely in my control. I grieved too many times and too soon in my adult life. The loss of your four classmates is a difficult tragedy to endure and process at this stage of your life and I sympathize with you and their families.
There is no easy way to get through this period of grief, but in such times you may find solace in focusing on the good memories and times you shared together. It’s a difficult passage to deal with the loss of a friend but you will eventually overcome grief and appreciate your precious gift of life.
Chère “Classe de 2022”,
Je sais bien que c’est un anglicisme que de m’adresser ainsi à vous mais je le fais consciemment, me rappelant trop bien les images et l’appellation de ma Classe de ’82. L’appartenance à une « Classe », c’est un impondérable qui, à l’approche de la graduation, pourrait facilement échapper à un certain nombre d’entre vous.
Votre Classe vient de recevoir un coup dur, un coup très dur. L’horreur de la mort accidentelle des Élofs Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy et Andrés Salek est difficile à cerner tant elle frappe par son caractère soudain et la cruauté du moment où elle survient. J’utilise le présent pour en parler car vous vivez et vivrez encore longtemps les effets de cette tragédie. Cela ne servirait à rien de le nier et l’ombre de cet accident fatidique obscurcira malheureusement les festivités de fin de parcours.
Cela dit, un peu comme le clairon joue presqu’avec entrain le « Réveil » après les deux minutes de silence du « Dernier appel », vous vous devez de croire en un futur plus serein où votre cohorte se dispersera au sein des Forces armées canadiennes (FAC). Cette symbolique du jour du Souvenir m’a souvent servi tout au long de ma carrière et je vous suggère de vous en rappeler tout au long de la vôtre. Ces pièces symbolisent le soldat qui accomplit son devoir jusqu’à la fin (la mort) et son ascension au-dessus des réalités terrestres (le réveil). Je sais qu’à votre âge ces réflexions sont parfois complexes à gérer mais les missions qui vous attendent vous feront de plus en plus prendre conscience de la dure réalité du service sous les drapeaux.
Votre Classe s’est déjà illustrée en faisant face à la COVID pendant une grande proportion de vos années d’étude et vous avez brillé malgré la crise de leadership qui a secoué la chaîne de commandement. Vos familles vous ont appuyés, et souvent hébergés, comme jamais cela ne s’était produit dans l’histoire des collèges militaires royaux de notre grand pays. L’instabilité internationale vous fait maintenant vivre la Guerre russo-ukrainienne alors que vous vous apprêtez à passer sous l’Arche pour une dernière fois. Oui, le « Réveil » vous l’entendrez clairement et je sais que la Classe de 2022 sera à la hauteur de la situation.
D’accord, ce ne sont là que des bons mots que je vous écris mais je ferai un peu plus pour vous encourager. En effet, je serai au Collège avec mon épouse pour les célébrations des 19 et 20 mai prochains car j’ai l’honneur d’avoir un filleul, M2114 Élof Todd Blanchette et un neveu, 28331 Élof Félix Blanchette, qui font partie de votre promotion (c’est le bon terme en français). Je tiens bien sûr à être sur place pour être témoin de cet important jalon de leurs carrières, et je ne serai pas seul. Mon fils, 27233 Capt Jean-Victor Blanchette et sa conjointe, 27843 Capt Amélie Leclair-Albert, ainsi que mon autre neveu (et parrain de Félix) 20180 Bgén Éric Laforest et son épouse, 20109 Capt (ret) Isabelle Compagnon se joindront à nous pour les festivités. Pour compléter le tout, le frère de Todd, l’adjudant-maître Jessie Blanchette et son épouse retraitée de l’Aviation royale canadienne seront aussi de la partie, sans oublier un bon nombre d’autres membres d’une famille avec un penchant militaire assez marqué.
In closing, while being unsure whether you read this in English or French Week, please keep in mind that the last 100 metres to the objective are always the toughest. Plan accordingly, as your objectives will continue to evolve, constantly, and quickly might I add…
Truth – Duty – Valour
13595 MGén (ret) Richard V. Blanchette
Colonel Commandant Corps d’infanterie royal canadien
Promotion de 1982
Dear graduates of the RMC Class of 2022:
For many years, mounted above the entrance to the academic building at Royal Roads Military College, there was a plaque displaying truly inspirational words from British Lord Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, namely that “Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be”. Each day, as we cadets walked below that plaque, we were reminded of the prestige, importance, significance and weight of the careers we chose. We knew that our nation demands a lot from us, despite the risks and dangers so often faced while going about our duty. Despite every other personal burden we shoulder, it’s our duty to the nation that requires our focus. Sometimes the hardest jobs we face are those dealing with our troops and fellow warriors, whose care and attention might demand our very best leadership and often our courage drawn deep from within.
As a Class, in these first several years of your careers, you’ve fought your way together through many difficult challenges of military training. You’ve overcome physical hardships and mental stresses, but you’ve come out on top while reaping the rewards of group synergy. You didn’t do this alone. As the finishing line of military college life nears, you’ve been dealt a major blow with the tragic loss of four comrades. It’s human nature to grieve, and also an important military duty to grieve those great young warriors, but also to care for them. You backed them up as teammates through the journey thus far, and now it’s they who will continue to back you up as you soldier on. When you wrap up the last big parade in scarlets, it is they who will even lead the cheer shouting “Gimme a beer!” Recognize they will stay with you always and cover “your Six” when you strap on that helicopter or fighter jet, when you propel that tank down-range toward the objective or when you navigate that warship through frigid dangerous waters. It’s your duty to keep honouring those fine warriors through excellence in your own career, whether military or civilian. It’s also their duty to keep supporting you, and they will be there with you. So, in just a couple weeks as you pack the car for that voyage from RMC to the next great adventure, save some space in the passenger seat for the co-pilot. As you take one last look toward Point Frederick, don’t say “Farewell my friends”. Instead, say “Hop in Buds, we’re going on a trip”.
With due respect to some great Navy tradition, these four Buds are fallen, but they will not be absent.
13811 Ross Edwin Wuerth
Class of 1982
Royal Roads – RMC