Under brilliantly sunny skies, Bradford branch 521 of the Royal Canadian Legion launched 37 Flight – right now, a satellite of the 94 Squadron Air Cadets of Newmarket, but by May 25 of next year, the Bradford Orville Hand 37 Squadron Air Cadets.
Saturday’s launch began with a parade. The new Bradford cadets were joined by representatives of other nearby Cadet squadrons, including 94 from Newmarket, 140 Aurora Squadron and the 778 Banshee Squadron from Richmond Hill. There were bands and Colour Parties, including the Legion’s own, and a contingent of dignitaries.
The parade halted on Back Street outside the Legion Hall, newly painted for the occasion, for a brief ceremony and wreath-laying at the Cenotaph. Then guests and cadets moved to the rear of the building, for speeches of welcome and congratulations in the open air.
The event was emceed by Jacquie Perrin – honorary Air Cadet with 25 years of volunteering with 140 Squadron; and an honorary Snowbird, after 34 years with the Canadian National Air Show.
“Many of the Snowbirds, including the first female Snowbird, were Air Cadets,” Perrin pointed out, congratulating the new recruits on being part of an outstanding Youth program that can pave the way for a career in aviation.
Perrin also read messages from Canada’s Governor General, former astronaut Julie Payette; Ontario Lt.-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and local MP Peter Van Loan, who was unable to attend in person.
Payette wrote that she is “supportive of any group that promotes aviation,” and described the new Cadets as part of a “new generation” of aviators who will “carry on the proud traditions that began with the men and women in uniform.”
Speakers included MPP Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s Attorney General. Mulroney noted that Air Cadets “not only provide youth with new opportunities to get involved in our communities…. They will teach the kids leadership skills, opening the doors to a variety of careers.”
“It is an opportunity for Youth to learn skills, make new friends and be invested in our communities,” said BWG Mayor Rob Keffer. “The Air Cadets program helps Youth prepare for the future.”
The mayor spoke of the late Orville Hand, who has given his name to both the Bradford Branch of the Legion and the new Air Cadet Squadron. Born in Bradford, Hand joined the RCAF in 1941, and was deployed overseas in 1942. He returned to Bradford in 1945, where he opened a gas station and garage, served as a firefighter, and supported the Legion, helping to build the hall in 1950.
Hand was “an excellent representation of what it means to be giving your best to your community,” Keffer said.
Members of the Hand family attended the launch of 37 Flight, including Nancy Zajacz – Orville Hand’s daughter. “We are very proud and honoured to be here with you,” she said, adding that her father “would be very appreciative.”
Other speakers included John Nolan, chair of the Ontario Provincial Committee of the Air Cadet League of Canada; Major Mark Holowatyj – area elemental advisor (Air); Sharon McKeown – provincial president of the Ontario RCL; Gary Pond – vice president of the RCL Ontario Command; District E Commander Pam Davidson; 37 Flight Commanding Officer Major Stephen Case; and Legion president Mike Giovanetti.
Nolan praised those who have worked tirelessly to bring Air Cadets to Bradford. “Your squadron is now taxiing down the runway, preparatory to taking off,” he said. “Our wishes are with you – good luck, and happy flying!”
There were presentations to the fledgling Squadron – a cheque for $6,000 from the Bradford Legion Poppy Fund, $5,000 from the Town of BWG Community initiatives grant fund – money raised through the annual Mayor’s Golf Tournament; and a gift of $4,500 from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, raised at this year’s Run for Bradford (BWG).
The ceremony and speeches were followed by a barbecue, cake-cutting, and the opportunity to try out a Flight Simulator, provided by Claudio Teixeira of uFly Flight Simulators. There was also a reminder that the formal launch of 37 Squadron Air Cadets will take place May 25, 2019, with the first annual Ceremonial Review and Grand Opening.
“For 25 years, people have been saying Cadets is the biggest secret, as a Youth group,” said CO Major Case. “We are letting the people in Bradford in on the secret.”
Air Cadets is open to youth, both boys and girls, between the ages of 12 and 18. Bradford 37 Flight meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. at Fieldcrest Elementary School.