There are a few constants in Tumbler Ridge. Come winter? It will be cold. Come spring, it will be windy. Come summer, there will be bears. And come Remembrance Day, there will be Master Corporal Glenn Miller leading the parade.
Miller has been leading the parade from the Legion to the High School for the last decade. It was not, he says, something that he was planning on doing. “I was asked by the Legion if I’d be the parade marshal,” he says. “With my experience in the armed forces, I knew about parades, and how to set it up, so I did it. Now they come and ask me every year.”
Miller has been a member of the Legion for going on 40 years, after a 14 year stint in the Canadian Armed Forces as a paratrooper. “No sooner did I get out than I became a member of the Legion,” he says. “For many of those years, I was a member of Legion 255 in Edmonton, Jasper Place. Coming out here, they asked me to switch my membership.”
Since moving to Tumbler Ridge, Miller has been involved in many aspects of the Legion: president, first vice, selling poppies….
For some, once they get out of the military, they want to just leave it all behind them. But for Miller, he says he had to stay involved. “Being in the Armed Forces, I know what they do, and what they go through. I have all the respect for the people who are in the Armed Forces.”
Miller did two tours peace keeping in Cypress, and, while it sounds all nice and friendly, he was there when the Turks decided to mount an offensive to take over more of the island. “Peacekeeping can be just as dangerous as being on the front line, because you’re limited to what you could do. We lost three young gentlemen on the last tour of duty that I did. People don’t understand how dangerous it is. Some of the things you see at such a young age, it’s pretty mind bogging. The day the Turks decided they wanted more of the island, I went out with an officer, and I saw them loading a truck with the dead bodies. You see things like that. Even the remnants of war. I saw a helmet with a bullet hole through it. It was probably on someone’s head. It gets you thinking, and you have a lot more respect for what people go through in battle. That morning, with all the bombs were going off, everything was shaking. It only lasted half a day. I can imagine what it’s like to do that every day. What the troops had to go through.”
For years, Miller went to the Remembrance Day Services, attending but not participating, but now is involved not just leading the parade, but with the Rangers and the Junior Rangers who play a large role in the ceremony. “I always try to give the people something to think about when we’re out there,” he says. “Whether it’s about the most decorated Canadian, or about a troop that isn’t remembered. When you blanket everything together, we remember them as a group, but there are some people, some groups that deserve a little more note. So I always come up with something. History in school doesn’t remember the individuals. I always try and pick one of them and get the people to think about them. I try and instil in the kids what it means. Rather than just a day off, I try to explain what these people went through. When you put a reason behind it, it is easier for them to remember and pass on. When you are able to show them the individuals…. Everyone remembers Crosby, Gretzky. We had heroes in the war, so I try and tell them about these people, so they can pass it on to their children.”
This year, says Miller, he is going to talk about Tommy Prince. While he isn’t sure what he’ll say yet, he wants to the tell the story about the sergeant and war hero. “He was First Nations. Not a lot of people remember him. He died on the streets in Winnipeg. A few years back, his unit brought it to light. They went and got his medals back, because he was trying to sell them on the street.”
“People should know things like this. You hear about different battles, like Vimy Ridge and D-Day, but there’s a lot of individuals who did a lot of things. They did their duty and they did great things, and they should always be remembered for what they accomplished.”
Miller encourages people to learn more about the individuals and the stories of people. “I’d like for people to check into this. We have books, we have the internet. You find out about some of the individuals and what they did. People don’t know these things, and if you don’t know, you can’t pass it on. That way, it’s not going to be forgotten.”