By Phil McLachlan
Elk Valley is home to many Veterans, some alive and well, and some passed on. Aaron Kozler, a Sparwood resident, served eight years in the infantry, the majority of which was spent out east with the Second Batallion Royal Canadian Regiment. Since the formation of this regiment in 1883, it has partaken in every military campaign undertaken by Canada.
“It was a privilege to do a service that I felt, was selfless,” said Kozler. “My grandfather did it in World War Two, and I thought that I needed to give back to my country, as a citizen of Canada.
“Never forget what our men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have done for this country,” he added. “For our freedom, our rights, our right of speech, our right to vote and our right to be free. That’s something that needs to be upheld, especially nowadays with all the turmoil with different factions and uncertainties around the world; I think it’s needed more than ever right now.”
Throughout his service, Kozler believes his eyes have been opened to the ways of the world, and he believes that he has gained clarity on what it really means to be a Canadian citizen. Five years into his service, Kozler was called up to serve overseas in Afghanistan. Throughout his time there in 2010, he was affected by the high-stress environment, and since then has dealt with the struggle of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), something that affects 11 per cent of Afghanistan veterans.
“It’s a disorder that’s affecting Canadian soldiers a lot,” said Kozler. “It’s more of a pride thing. Especially in the infantry, a lot of guys didn’t want to release their feelings. It’s a big thing, and it’s something that needs to be addressed more and more.”
Recovery has been a long process for Kozler, and he found much refuge through the support of his own battalion. He believes that PTSD is being addressed well enough on paper, but sees a void in genuine emotional support for the soldiers.
In 2013, after eight years in the infantry, Kozler withdrew from the army and now resides back in his hometown of Sparwood. Asked about Remembrance Day, he shared his view on this annual commemoration.
“Remembrance Day is a very deep thing for me, especially this time of year,” said Kozler. “It’s very important to uphold as a tradition, deep in our hearts… We have that pride and honour that many countries do not have. We are a very proud nation, and it is a very good thing. Just uphold that. It’s very important to us, the soldiers, and the future soldiers in the generations to come.”