Skip to content

‘It’s tough to articulate unless you’ve experienced it’; Golden military and RCMP veteran reflects on Remembrance

Garth Burlock spent seven years in the military before joining the RCMP, retiring in 2013
Garth Burlock has called Golden his home since 2001. (Garth Burlock photo)

After decades of travelling and relocation from his stints in the army and the RCMP, Garth Burlock found his way to Golden and made it his home. With his son signing off on the ski hill, Burlock transferred to the Golden/Field detachment of the RCMP, which he retired from in 2013, moving his family one final time.

Initially arriving in 2001, it had been a long journey for Burlock, who originally hails from the Maritimes and joined the military right out of high school, in 1981.

Burlock had always seen himself as a police officer, but daunted by the lengthy and difficult process of joining the RCMP, he opted instead of enlist as a medic in the armed forces.

“I thought I would get a good background and good life experiences and then try the RCMP again,” explained Burlock.

“But I didn’t, I ended up staying almost eight years in the military and it was a pretty sweet job, cool in every sense of the word.”

Burlock went through six levels of medical training and eventually qualified as an airborne medic, trained to parachute into hard to reach areas to triage, bandage, splinter and stitch up patients in hard to reach areas.

“My airborne training was a feather in my cap,” said Burlock.

“I’ve worked in emergency rooms alone, hands on surgery, lots of interesting stuff, but the airborne training, that was pretty cool.”

With his training, Burlock had the opportunity in 1986 to travel to Norway with NATO and the Fifth Brigade, which included his unit, for a training scenario.

Comparing the set up to the TV show M*A*S*H, Burlock says that he dealt with real life casualties, in stark contrast to the training and pretend injuries and scenarios that he was used to on the base.

Many were as a result of training accidents.

During his seven years of service, there was no active conflict that the Canadian government was committing it’s military to, but soldiers still had to train to prepare for a potential future conflict, says Burlock.

And while he eventually did leave the military for the RCMP in 1988, he says he saw many of his friends leave for the first Gulf War within a few years of him leaving the army.

“They worked it first hand in what they were trained to do, this wasn’t some training exercise,” said Burlock.

“I just think back to some of my really close friends that aren’t here anymore, it’s a weird sensation, it’s emotional.

“Part of you is sad, part of you is proud, it’s tough to articulate unless you’ve experienced it.”

Burlock was released from the military in December of 1988, when his application for the RCMP was accepted after nearly three years.

After completing his training in Regina, SK, Burlock was transferred to Kelowna, B.C., where he hit the pavement in uniform for the first time, staying there for 12 years. According to him, working in Kelowna was non-stop and with his son getting older, he started to look for a new place to take his family where they could settle down.

He was offered Golden and never looked back.

Having been here for almost two decades now, Burlock says he’s blown away by the support the community has for it’s veterans and the respect they show on Remembrance Day.

“For a small little town, I take my hat off, they do it well,” said Burlock.

“It’s not Ottawa, but it doesn’t have to be, that’s not the point. The idea is that we’re here to honour those that went before us and honour those that we’ve lost even just since last Remembrance Day. It’s a time of reflection/

“I hope that someday the world will stop fighting, but there’s no end in sight yet. But we can always hope right?”

Claire Palmer

About the Author: Claire Palmer

Read more