In 2021, November has notably marked the return of hockey. Life has returned to the busy routine of moving from one activity from the next.
But today, November 11, Hockey Alberta encourages everyone to take a moment to remember those who have fought for our freedoms and honour those who continue to serve.
One of those current officers is also a member of Alberta hockey community - Canadian Armed Forces Commanding Officer, Major Leona Ahn.
Having served for more than 16 years, Leona is currently stationed in Edmonton. As a 23-year-old, she deployed to Afghanistan. Since returning to home soil, she has worked in international events such as the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, relief efforts after natural disasters such as the 2013 floods in Southern Alberta, and 2016 wildfires in Northern Alberta. Most recently, she has aided in the fight against COVID-19.
Though Leona didn’t grow up playing hockey, she fell in love because of the sport. Leona met her spouse, Angie, during a ball hockey tournament. An ice hockey player herself including a stint with the University of Alberta Pandas, Angie enrolled Leona in hockey lessons and Leona was hooked. Sealing their fate of being hockey Moms, their five-year-old daughter began playing Timbits this season.
With a family at home, Leona credits Angie and their two kids for her success and drive.
“I would be nothing without Angie and our family and I know that a lot of military members would say the same thing,” said Leona. “We cannot do what we do, we cannot do what we love, without our families and the incredible sacrifices of parenting alone. The postings, the instability for families sometimes and putting them through that and still having a smile and supporting, that means the world to us.”
For Angie, who is a teacher, being part of a military family means that schedules can change quite quickly, depending on Leona’s role at the time. But it is worth it.
“It’s a real honour to be a spouse to someone in uniform, that’s representing our country,” said Angie. “I always look at it as a really great opportunity for our kids to see somebody who’s not just looking out for family, but looking out for our community and our country.”
For the Ahn family, Remembrance Day is a time to set aside political affiliation or thoughts on foreign policy, and “support the human behind the uniform.”
“Remembrance Day is a great week to be in reflection and full of gratitude for the abundance of what we have as Canadians and to reflect on all the veterans that are no longer with us today and to the soldiers that are currently serving right now,” said Leona. “Because we’re mothers and fathers, we’re sisters and brothers, we’re your friends, we’re your neighbours.”
And the last 18 months have provided a new, contemporary context for the role of the military in Canada.
“Never did we think that the Canadian Armed Forces would be in long-term care facilities during a global pandemic. Never did we think that we’d be sending military nurses to be at the Royal Alex supporting ICU capacity, or did we think that we were going to do vaccine distribution in Indigenous communities up north,” Leona said. “These are your everyday soldiers. It’s not all about the bloodshed and combat, we’re a pretty holistic force as we’ve proven this year. We’re fighting fires, we’re doing flood relief operations, we’re up north, as well as trying to build relations, diplomatic ties, securities in other regions outside Canada where they don’t have the same privileges as us.”
This Remembrance Day take a moment. Reflect on those who have served, honour those who continue to serve and respect the thousands of military families who have sacrificed for our freedom and our country. Lest we forget.