Modern day soldier inspired by ancestors
- Rose Mansbridge-Goldie | November 16, 2021
Trent Gervais has been living his childhood dream of being a soldier for more than a decade. The Cree and Dene infantry officer has been with the Canadian Armed Forces since 2011.
“Part of learning my culture has been finding and embracing my warrior spirit and so, in my mind, the military was the obvious route for me to go about that,” Gervais said.
Gervais said he learned about his culture from his parents and Elders at Flying Dust First Nation but felt the “warrior culture” of his people was missing.
While there were a few veterans in his community, Gervais did not hear their stories.
He wanted to experience the military himself. He was 18 when he joined the primary reserves of the Northern Saskatchewan regiment.
Gervais is inspired by his uncle, Will Quinney, who served in Afghanistan twice, and by his great-grandfather, Alphonse Merasty, a Second World War veteran.
“(My uncle) was always supporting me through my journey to become an infantry officer and he still is to this day,” he said.
For Gervais, Remembrance Day is about honouring all of the fallen soldiers, including his great-grandfather and other Indigenous veterans who did not get the same recognition when they came home from combat.
“Everything I do in uniform is because of my great-grandfather,” Gervais said. “So when November 11th comes, his legacy and the sacrifices he made are always in my memory and in my thoughts.”
In 2016 he trained to be an officer in New Brunswick for 12 months. Gervais said he was the only Indigenous person that he knew of, but it wasn’t a negative thing and he didn’t feel left out. The training involved three months of intensive, outdoor experience.
“You're living outside and it doesn't matter if it's rainy, snowing, plus 40 or minus 40. As an infantry officer, you’ve got to be able to lead even though you're feeling all of these negative effects, whether it be weather, whether it be hunger, you know, that you're tired.
“There were lots of times I wondered, ‘what am I doing right now?’ A lot of my friends and family were enjoying their summers and here I was in the middle of a forest, freezing.”
Despite his doubts, he pushed through.
“Accomplishing that was one of the proudest things I’ve done in the military so far,” he said.
He was promoted to captain as of March 2018.
Gervais doesn’t consider himself a veteran because he hasn’t served overseas yet, but he is “actively looking to deploy.”
He is hoping to deploy to Eastern Europe or the Middle East in the near future.
“It’s one of the biggest goals I'm looking toward achieving right now,” he said.