Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
RUSSELL — To suggest that Noah Walkden has a keen interest in all things military is to severely understate the case.
Reached at his Russell home Wednesday evening as he packed with mom Andrea Pringle for a vacation in Dominican Republic (one week there, two weeks of self-isolation upon return) Noah, 15, allowed he would much rather research WWII than hang out at the mall or engage in computer games.
That dedication was rewarded last week when Noah’s commanding officer in Royal Canadian Army Cadet Regiment 2951 out of Leitrim travelled to his home to present to him in his laneway, with proud parents looking on, the prestigious Lord Strathcona Medal and accompanying Certificate of Merit in recognition of exemplary performance in physical and military training.
COVID-19 kept the brief ceremony outdoors and away from his regiment which hasn’t mustered since the pandemic invaded; for the past nine months, all activities have been online including lessons given by Noah, now a Warrant Officer expecting to soon become a Master Warrant Officer.
While he’d been hoping to be recognized with the exclusive honour because “I’ve been busting my butt,” Noah was still pleasantly surprised when it actually came his way.
Swayed by tradition on both sides of the family (his father is Jason Walkden of Chesterville), particularly the war record of his great grandfather Edward Smith who told him some of the stories as a youngster, Noah immersed himself in military… so much so, Andrea said, he could no longer be held back at age 12 when he enlisted in the cadets.
The consumed cadet whose prize possessions aren’t an iPhone or cool shoes but his grandfather’s medals, helmet and pocket knife from the Front, actually investigated military cemeteries in Europe leading up to a field trip with his regiment to such sacred sites as Dieppe, Vimy and Juno Beach.
After he arrived, he was able to track down the grave of his great, great uncle Royal Air Force Flying Officer John Halliday Ward, becoming the first family member to visit his final resting place.
Noah is now following his great grandfather’s example in the medal collecting department. He already had the Legion Medal for dedication to the cause, only to have that topped with the Lord Strathcona award named for a 19th Century philanthropist, railway builder and Hudson’s Bay Company principal shareholder, the highest honour to be bestowed upon a Canadian cadet.
Rarely presented and only when a panel determines a candidate meets all criteria, the circular copper medallion with burgundy and green ribbon bearing the motto “Agmina Ducens” recognizes the highest level of physical fitness and top level of training. The successful candidate must be regarded by peers and supervisors as exemplifying the model cadet.
One of Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona’s, objectives in establishing the award was to foster patriotism through a good knowledge of military matters. The award and other positive military experiences have fostered Noah’s intention of making the Armed Forces a career, hopefully gaining a university education as part of the commitment.
As he prepared for vacation, Noah said he had no trouble with self-isolation, with high school classes online and spending most of his time happily at home anyway.