When Kirk Taylor joined the 84th Independent Field Battery in Yarmouth as a reservist, his mother Tina Smith says without a doubt he had found his niche.
“It was like he found something he could put himself into and be involved with. He just enjoyed it so much,” she says. “I remember him practising and putting all of the gear on and running five miles around Bear Point to make sure that he’d be able to meet all of the entry requirements. He was so excited to be a part of something.”
The drills, the structure, the routine – he loved it all.
“He liked being a part of something that was bigger than him,” his mother says. “Kirk, lots of times growing up, was a bit of loner. But once he got with the 84th I never got that sense that he was a loner anymore. He found a comradery that really, in my mind, touched his soul.”
Smith remembered those years with great fondness on Nov. 10 following a ceremony held at the Yarmouth armouries. The ceremony marked the 115th anniversary of the 110 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Yarmouth. Included in the event was the presentation of a commemorative coin, which celebrates the cadet corps’ milestone and pays tribute to Sgt. Kirk Taylor who died in December 2009 while serving in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Taylor, 28, and three other Canadian soldiers and a Canadian journalist were killed by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province. Taylor had been deployed to Kandahar in October of that year with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. He was scheduled to come home in May 2010.
The coin was presented to members of his family – his mother Tina, his sister Stephanie Wickens, his brother Jim Wickens, and his grandmother Rosaline Cann – along with members of the cadet corps, members of the 84th and other invited guests. Members of the public had also pre-ordered coins.
WANTING TO PAY TRIBUTE
Capt. Gary Hudson, commanding officer of the 110 Army Cadets, says as part of the cadet corps anniversary he wanted to pay tribute to Taylor, who had worked closely with the cadet corps while with the 84th Independent Field Battery. Hudson was discussing this with Yarmouth County resident John Doucette – treasurer of the Wedgeport Legion Branch and also a cadet liaison coordinator – when Doucette told him about special coins that were part of the West Nova Scotia Regimental Association Doucette’s dad Ernest had belonged to. The coins pay tribute to those who served in the Second World War.
“Each one is individually stamped with the person’s name, their rank, the date of their passing and their service number. That is how they were giving tribute to their fallen comrades,” Doucette says. He showed Hudson one of the coins. Hudson immediately loved the idea.
And when word got out about the plans for a coin to honour the cadet corps and Sgt. Taylor, others fell in love with the idea too.
“Literally my Messenger crashed, just from the interest of people asking questions,” Doucette says. “We had first initially said we’ll do 200 coins. Then we needed 300 coins. Within a week of that we needed to have 400 coins made.”
By the day of the ceremony 399 of the 400 coins had already been designated or spoken for.
The coin was designed and produced by SGS Marketing in Alberta. Doucette says in the new year they’ll be putting in another order for the coin, which can be purchased for $20.
Stay tuned for details, he says.
The 110 Yarmouth County Academy Cadet Corps was formed July 2, 1904. The cadet corps had a few different affiliated units throughout its history before it became affiliated with the 84th Independent Field Battery.
Once also known as the Yarmouth Memorial High School Army Cadet Corps, a history of the corps read during the ceremony stated that the 110 Royal Canadian Amy Cadet Corps is the oldest continuous serving cadet corps in Atlantic Canada, and one of the oldest cadet corps in Canada.
One of the people to speak during the ceremony was Major Stephen Misner, Battery Commander of the 84th field battery, RCA. He spoke about serving with Sgt. Taylor.
“When we’d go into the field, I was his troop commander and he was a perfect example of leadership in how he would lead his troops and develop them and prepare them for the future,” he said.
“When we got the message about the incident that happened to Sgt. Taylor it was a shock to all of us and it was a very emotional time. We look back on him as someone to exemplify, someone to have our soldiers point to who we can be like,” he said, referring to the 84th Independent Field Battery’s legacy of service and sacrifice and of its members doing things to better other people’s lives.
“Sgt. Taylor is one of those people,” he said.
Tina Smith says having her son commemorated on a coin, and having it coincide with the cadet corps’ 115th anniversary, is deeply meaningful and very emotional.
“It’s such an honour,” she says. “I know Kirk meant a lot to the people here.”
Asked what she would tell others if they were thinking about becoming involved with the cadets or the 84th, her advice would be a resounding, “Go for it.”
“I really think that sometimes when you belong to an organization like this you learn who you are and I think, especially in today’s world, that’s vital,” she says.
“I think there are a lot of things that happen to derail people, especially young people, and I think if you can be part of something like this that’s bigger than you, I think you’ll find your place and that piece of your soul that fits. You’ll find that comradery and you’ll find that family. I would say absolutely be a part of something bigger.”