Master Corporal Steve Pederson has been a Canadian Ranger for 31 years.
The past seven weeks have been among the most memorable for the Courtenay resident.
Pederson just returned from a tour of duty guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the National War Memorial in Confederation Square, in Ottawa.
“It was a huge honour just to be selected,” said Pederson. “The call went out for interested persons to apply. We put our name in and I was selected from my group, which is the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, which covers the four western provinces. There were six of us selected from that, to participate with 12 members of the Canadian Armed Forces to make up Roto 6 - the time period from Sept. 8-Oct.22.”
This is the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Rangers. As such, every roto at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2022 has had at least one Canadian Ranger involved.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I was selected. We arrived in Ottawa Sept. 8… and proceeded to do a week of fairly intensive drills and marching, to make sure we were up to step. For our duty, we worked a four-day on, four-day off schedule. We were marched up with a piper to take our post.”
Pederson is still in awe of his experience.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” he said. “It was just a tremendous opportunity to represent my unit, and the Canadian Forces in general.”
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is Canada’s most iconic and visible reminder of the service and sacrifice of the Canadian Armed Forces members.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honours the more than 116,000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace and freedom.
The Unknown Soldier represents all serving Canadians – Navy, Army, Air Force, or Merchant Marine. Those who died or may die for their country in all conflicts – past, present, and future.
While the sentry duty is largely ceremonial, there is an official responsibility to it as well.
“If somebody disrespects the tomb, we are to come to attention, step forward… and in a very firm voice, ask them to step back. if they don’t, we are overwatched by military police officers, who will intervene,” said Pederson.
He said other than a few children who encroached upon the tomb without an understanding of the area, there were no incidents during his time at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Pederson’s duty ended on the eighth anniversary of the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was gunned down was standing guard on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial.
Pederson’s Ranger responsibility is the western part of Vancouver Island - the Zebellos area.
“We are basically the eyes and the ears for the Armed Forces,” said Pederson. “We serve in remote and isolated communities across the country. If we see anything out of the ordinary, we pass the information along.”
Pederson is a well-decorated Ranger. He has a special service medal, a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and has been a two-time recipient of the Canadian Decoration Ranger bar.
-With files from the Department of National Defence