A former Qualicum Beach sailor and star soccer player is now standing guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the National War Memorial.
The ceremonial guard posting means more than ever after the tragic death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo late last year — an event that stunned the country, shedding light on the importance of sentry duty.
Kwalikum Secondary graduate Liam Chambers started sentry duty last week and stood in the exact same spot as Cirillo.
“It was a pretty intense moment for me,” Chambers, 23, told
The NEWS from Ottawa. “I tried to think about everything and make that connection for myself.”
Chambers is a lead seaman with Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver, which is homeported in Esquimalt. He’s been in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for nearly four years.
Chambers will be serving sentry duty in Ottawa until May 26, made possible through the National Sentry Program, created to reinforce the Canadian commitment to remember and honour Canadians who have served in both World Wars and those who have contributed to Canada’s military tradition to-date.
“I joined the military because I wanted a professional career which would constantly challenge me,” said Chambers. “And most importantly for ceremonial reasons, especially because of the shooting that happened last year.”
CAF members perform sentry duties from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I have three jobs every day,” said Chambers. “Two one hour postings and one hour of talking to the public answering questions… They ask everything from what certain dates are to what badges on my uniform mean.”
He said his experience in the military has been an “incredible change” with a “steep learning curve” admitting he’s grown up quickly.
Chambers said he’s thankful to his parents, Julie and Gary Chambers of Qualicum Beach, who have “absolutely” been a tremendous support throughout his career.
“I hope they’re proud,” he said. “They’ve been extremely supportive… The hardest part is being away from home all the time.”
At the end of his month-long posting in Ottawa, Chambers said he is heading off to play with the Canadian Forces national soccer team.
The 2015 season of the National Sentry Program launched April 9 and will run until November 11. The program has expanded and uses a rotation of sentries from the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force.
A government issue news release describes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as “Canada’s most iconic and visible reminder of the service and sacrifice of members of the Canadian Armed Forces.”
In May 2000, the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in the First World War were repatriated from France and, with great ceremony, were buried in a special tomb in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to honour more than 116,000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace and freedom. The Unknown Soldier represents all Canadians, whether they be navy, army, air force or merchant marine, who died or may die for their country in all conflicts — past, present and future.