It was an experience Ray Carlson says is hard to put into words.
The 100 Mile House resident and army veteran was one of the Canadian Ranger Patrol Group members chosen to attend this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies in the nation’s capital.
Carlson, 77, marched with other Canadian vets on the parade route in front of thousands of spectators near the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Nov. 11.
“It was so overwhelming. I’m finding it difficult to describe the feelings because the people were so wonderful. They were clapping and cheering and waving placards saying, ‘Thank you’.
“The hair was standing on the back of my neck. I had goose bumps.”
However, it was also an experience he almost didn’t get to have.
When Carlson first arrived in Ottawa with other Canadian Rangers earlier in the week, they were told they wouldn’t be marching in the parade. Carlson says he was disappointed, but took the news in stride, saying he felt lucky just to be there to witness the occasion.
On Nov. 10, however, his warrant officer had everyone put on their uniforms for an inspection ahead of the ceremony. When he came to Carlson, who served in the army between 1952 and 1963, and saw his medals, he recognized he was a former service member.
“He said, ‘you go over to the veterans [tomorrow] and you march with them’.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and senior military officers and other politicians were in attendance for the ceremony, which was broadcast live on national television.
“I was 15 or 20 feet away from the prime minister when they came in,” Carlson says, adding some of his friends were able to pick him – and another member of the Canadian Rangers – out among the marchers in their uniforms.
“We were wearing our red hoodies and combat pants and red ball caps. We were pretty easy to spot.”
The Canadian Rangers are a subgroup of the Canadian Forces reserves. They provide a military presence in some of the country’s more sparsely populated and isolated areas.
The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group is responsible for Canada’s four western provinces. Carlson was a patrol commander when he joined in 1993.
“I can honestly say that any veteran who hasn’t done the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa should reach into their pocket and buy a plane ticket and be a part of it. I felt so blessed to have been there.”