After tours in Cyprus, Bosnia, and three tours in Afghanistan, Kevin Bannister made Golden his home.
Right out of high school, Bannister joined the army. Born in Pembroke, Ont., to an army family, it was in 1989 that he enlisted, thanks to support from his father, who did nearly 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Although the army life is known for moving its members around, Bannister only made one move to Gagetown, New Brunswick. He went there as a sergeant to teach schools for a port observer.
His time on Canadian soil was spent training and teaching, but when he was overseas he worked for the artillery. He spent three tours in Afghanistan in 2002, 2006, and 2008 before retiring from his career. In 2006, Bannister says his team made history, firing more than 3,000 artillery rounds.
What he saw and experienced in Afghanistan changed his life forever. When he returned after his final tour, he was deemed non-operational, and could not go back overseas.
The help he has received from professionals in Golden to assist him through civilian life has been nothing short of “amazing,” he said. When he left the army, Bannister decided to come to the mountains to be close to his sister, who checks in on him every day.
This year, Bannister is leading the Remembrance Day Parade in Golden. Each year, Bannister participates in the parade with his fellow veterans.
“I got to remember the people I lost,” Bannister said.
Before the parade, Bannister spoke to high school students at Golden Secondary School. He focused his speech on bullying, drawing from his experiences in the army. There are many details from his career that are unsuitable to tell teenagers and children, but he wanted his message to hit home to them, and explain why it is important to treat each other fairly and with respect.
In past years, Bannister has also spoken to elementary school children, explaining that because he fought for Canada, moms and dads can go to work, do groceries, and live their lives.
Bannister has two children of his own, Micheal and Max, who are 25 and 22. They live in Ontario near their mother, but Bannister would not let them join the Armed Forces after his own experiences.
“What I went through, nope. They aren’t going in the army,” he said.
Although Bannister is retired from the army, he continues to work as a flagger for Crossroads. He spends a lot of his spare time running and doing physical training, which keeps his mind and body in shape. He would really like to work with Parks Canada in Roger’s Pass. Parks Canada brings in Armed Forces to use canons for avalanche control.
Bannister leads the Remembrance Day Parade on November 11. The parade begins at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #122 Golden, and makes its way to the Cenotaph on the corner of Park Drive and 10th Avenue S. The community is invited out to remember veterans who fought for Canada, and those from other countries.