LAMALINE, N.L. — For over 34 years the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 289 Corvette played a vital role in Lamaline.
“If anything goes on in our community, the cadets are the first ones to be asked,” Commanding Officer Lt(N) Glenda Boland said.
“Every year the cadets are the main part of the Santa Claus parade; the cadets are there in their uniforms to remember our fallen veterans at Remembrance day ceremonies in the schools; for the memory tree lighting; the cadets are the ones who read out the names, they sing the Christmas carols; on July 1 they are involved with the raising of the flag. Anything that needs done, the cadets are usually called on.”
For Boland — who has been an officer since 1991 and came up through the ranks as a sea cadet for six years before that — the decision to terminate the corps was one of the hardest she ever made.
“It’s in my blood. It was a really, really hard decision, I’ve had sleepless nights, lost sleep, I’ve shed tears,” she says through tears. “As you can see I’m a bit emotional about it. There comes a time in your life, even though you have a passion for something, to just move on.”
Boland cites low enrollment numbers as the main reason behind her decision. When the corps opened in Lamaline, almost every child in the community and neighboring towns was involved, 120 cadets. The number was down to 85 when Boland went through and is now down to just nine cadets.
Boland says dwindling numbers are an issue across the province.
“Nowadays all corps are small,” Boland commented. “It’s not like when we were in cadets.”
Back when Boland was a sea cadet, the minimum age to join was 13 (it is now 12). She wanted to be a part of the organization so badly that she became emotional about it.
“I can remember crying to my father because I wanted to join,” Boland recalled. “I remember being so upset that year because I couldn’t join. He (her father) called the officers, but you had to be 13 to join.
“Everybody wanted to be part of cadets. To us the cadets was everything. We were a different person when we were in our uniform. We had a sense of belonging. We felt so proud to be in that uniform.”
The skills and opportunities available to sea cadets are numerous. They have the chance to learn how to play an instrument, sail, become a trained marksman, learn survival skills, first aide, physical fitness, military style drills, they can travel throughout Canada and internationally, and have the potential to become employed in summer camps in this and other provinces and to receive scholarships.
The Lamaline cadets are welcome to join other corps but Boland says with the winter weather and the distances involved, that might be prohibitive for most.
Boland says the loss of the Lamaline corps will have a large impact both on the cadets and the town.
“We have a real community involvement,” Boland said. “We’re small in number but we’re big in heart and it will definitely be missed.”
Burin-Grand Bank MHA Carol Anne Haley is saddened by the news.
“The closure of RCSCC 289 Corvette is an especially poignant loss for me since it served as my home corps for a number of years,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Southern Gazette. “To be a successful cadet you have to practice teamwork, responsibility, leadership, respect, punctuality….the list is endless.
“Of course those aren’t merely cadet skills – those are skills that you carry with you throughout your adult life as well. They are certainly skills upon which I rely every day as a Member of the House of Assembly.”
The loss is especially difficult for current cadets. Cassie Drake is a Petty Officer 1st class, fourth year. She says she took the news of the closure hard.
“My reviewing officer put that she was stepping down on Facebook,” Drake recalled. “I was half crying at the table, I did not want it to end.”
Drake says the loss will be felt by the town in a big way.
“It’s gonna have a huge impact on the community,” she said. “Almost for everything the community has, the cadets were involved in. There’s going to be no band or anything for the Christmas parade. Even for Canada Day, we don’t even have anyone in uniform to raise the flag now. It’s devastating honestly.”
Drake credits her involvement with the sea cadets as forming an important element of her social life.
“We used to go on trips. We used to do marksmanship competitions and go sailing. It was loads of fun,” she said. “I will miss meeting new people. We used to mingle with corps from other areas on the Burin Peninsula. That’s where I met most of my friends, actually.”
With the distances involved, Drake doesn’t think she’ll join another community’s corps. She also feels the experience wouldn’t be as familial.
“With our corps, where it was such a small corps, you knew everyone so well,” Drake stated. “If you go to another corps, after spending so many years together, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
The biggest loss for Drake though, are the potential opportunities she is missing out on.
“You get scholarships and everything,” Drake lamented. “I won’t get the higher ranks now and I’m really sad about it.”