Most students at the Springbank Community High School know Timothy Bailey, as Mr. Bailey, the Grade 10 and 11 math teacher, so it may have come as a surprise to many in the student body when during the Remembrance Day ceremony, the school hosted on Thursday, that the man who teaches them algebra and trigonometry also served in the Canadian Army.
Bailey said that even though he has a few posters in his classroom, one which illustrates all the infantry regiments in Canada and the other which is an old map of Dundurn, Saskatchewan, where he spent time training, he posited that his students may not know the significance of why those maps hang in his classroom and what they mean to him.
"Every year it's important to remember those that came before us in World War I and II, and there are not very many of those veterans left; and as the years pass, I think it becomes hard to relate for the younger students," he said. "If I can tell a story, where the students see me and they know me from the classroom, and I'm able to say, 'I want to tell you about a friend of mine, who wanted to make the world a better place, and they paid the ultimate sacrifice.' Then maybe they can relate a little bit more."
Bailey joined the Canadian Army Reserves in 1992 and said that part of what drew him in was the ability to be able to serve his country, while also pursuing another career. While he worked part-time as a reservist, he would join full-time and would go overseas to Bosnia for two tours. During his first tour, Bailey was tasked with being a platoon signaler.
"I often worked in our command post, called the CP on our base, to keep communications with vehicles that would be coming in and going out of patrols. But I also got to go out on patrols. I would see what was going on in terms of people moving back into their pre-war homes," Bailey said. "The international community was trying to maintain the peace that was put in place by NATO during that time."
Looking back on his experiences, Bailey said he wants to impress upon students that how they live in Canada, is not how others live in other areas of the world and that as Canadians, we are all incredibly privileged to not have known war or disaster on a scale that Bosnia experienced.
"I think if I'm going to share about those experiences and talk about like running across a field - no big deal, right? When I was in Bosnia, you can't do that because you don't know where the mines are, as they didn't mark the fields," he said.
Although Bailey's responsibilities serving in Canada's Armed Forces are a world away from what he does as a teacher, both professions collided for him when he was serving in Bosnia, an experience that he said was one of the most memorable. During his first tour of duty in Bosnia, Bailey was part of a humanitarian program set up by his platoon commander and a few other officers. The program was offering beginning English classes for the local population.
"Although I'm not an English teacher, I got an opportunity to go out a number of sessions with a small group. We were teaching Bosnians some basic English. I thought that was really, really cool to do - even though this wasn't my forte. I think we did a good job and it was fun to do."
But Bailey also said that it's not just his experiences he wants to share with the students, it's the need to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves and honouring their sacrifices.
"There's a couple of guys that I was friends with, that I trained with work with. You work with [these] guys very closely on a course and you build that bond, that brotherhood. So, I had a couple of friends and after I started my teaching career, they went on to join the regular force. They went over to Afghanistan and they ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice," Bailey said. "It's a way for me to remember and honour some friends that can no longer tell their stories."
Schools across the Rocky View School division were all participating in various Remembrance Day ceremonies on Thursday. According to Superintendent of Schools, Greg Luterbach, these ceremonies are meant as a chance for everyone to take some time to remember and reflect on the contributions of Canada's military.