In 1983, I set foot onto Canadian Forces’ Base Chilliwack, British Columbia and started an experience that still continues to this day.  At that time, I was a young dewy-faced, neophyte –

ASF circa 1983

and because I knew no one, I was alone. But, as it happens, so was everyone else.  And in our shared solitudes, we all tried very hard to ignore the shouting, the stress, and the discomfort, as we challenged every ounce of our beings to understand our new culture – in a new place,  far away from our homes.

We were 18.

And in that brief 6 weeks, in which we learned to wear the uniform, to march, to live in the field, to run long distances, to navigate and to lead small teams, we all made a few friends. But these friends were at a different level than  “friends” that share a few common interests, or say hello when they see each other in the street; nope, these were new friend that I would learn, and need, to depend on implicitly.  These were people I would trust with my life.

And for the next four years, we shared everything. Good times, bad times…happy moments and tears.  We took on challenges as a team, and we endured – not

The Collwood Eight

always victorious, but always together. We consoled each other, we encouraged each other; at times we scolded each other and offered life advice – offered from the vantage point of worldly young twenty-somethings.We played sports together, we studied together, we ate together, we watched TV together…and given the horrible state of the military buildings, we shared an intimacy that broke any barriers of self-modesty, as we showered and did our ablutions together in old World War II infrastructure.

RMC v Westpoint 1986

We shared clothes and smokes and beers and money. We were each other’s wing-men – taking on names like Carl Gustav and Tommy Gunn to advance the cause. And on occasion, we stopped fights and sweet talked bouncers or Kingston’s Finest for each other – the Cadets from the Institute.

We jumped into the cauldron with each other – not war – but preparation for it.  We were young, and we were Soldiers (and Sailors and Aircrew).  We were invincible, healthy and ready to take on whatever anyone threw at us.

We forged friendships that will last a life time. And in that bittersweet moment when we walked through the College Arch – no longer students, but full-fledged

The Troll, Spenny, Spud, ASF, Mitch, Miff. Grad 87

leaders – we spread to the four corners of the globe, executing our duties. And over time, we matured. We honed our crafts; we fell in love; we married; we had children, and we grew wiser. And as the hour-glass of our lives slowly filled, as happens to all close groups, we  drifted – imperceptibly – apart. But this separation was only physical.

Some of us left the military. And using the same self-discipline, courage and adventurous spirit that brought us together in 1983,  these brave ones struck out into fields unexplored, creating new paths and achieving new success.  And their success has validated us, and all we did when we were younger.

And some of us stayed in uniform – taking on growing leadership challenges to achieve success for Canada and her citizens.  And, again, our success has validated us all.

But no matter where we are, or what we are doing, every five years, most of us return to the Mothership. Like pigeons to the roost, or bees to the hive, we return to be with our Buds.  And be it five years, 10, 15…or as just last weekend, 25 years since Graduation…it was just like we were back in our youth.  The stories, the lingo, the memories are just as good today as they were then.  And though we may be older or rounder, perchance greyer or balder, the friendships have not yellowed or frayed.   In fact, the comfort, the ease, and the love are just as strong today as they were 25 years ago.  Time has not changed a thing.  It is uncanny. And I see nothing but the same for many years to come as I watch our Elders celebrate their 40th, 50th, and in some cases 60th reunions together.

I know it is crazy, but being with my Buds makes me younger. It takes me back to the time when The Clash was new, when a new Ford Mustang cost $10,000, when shoulder pads were hip. Back to a time when I had my whole life, and the whole world ahead of me.  And when I am in their company, I still feel capable of wonderful things – like taking on our newest generation in rugby, or water polo – or partying like its 1999 (or earlier). It is rejuvenating, like drinking from a fountain of youth.

And as my wife commented after my 25th reunion weekend: I am so lucky to have friends who are timeless; to have friends with whom I have gone through “the shit”- friends whom without, I wouldn’t have made it through.

It is something to cherish.

And when we meet again – tomorrow, or next week, next year, or in five years – it will be like time stood still.  I will still love them just as much. Amongst all the people I know – probably thousands – there is no tighter circle than ours.   And while I do miss them when we are apart, I know that neither time nor distance does anything to diminish our bonds and our trust. I know that tomorrow, like today and yesterday, they have my back. And they know that I have theirs.

So until we meet again, stay well class of ’87.  See you at our 30th.

TDV

(PS. Miff – you rock. Figuratively and literally.)

Later,

ASF

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