Remembrance Day Sentry Program

LS Richard Balbuena stands sentry at the National War Memorial in Ottawa during Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11.
Photo: Pte Tori Lake, CFSU Ottawa

Dominican-born sailor proud to represent RCN on Remembrance Day

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

LS Richard Balbeuna left his office job in Montreal in 2009 to pursue an exciting and fulfilling career in the Royal Canadian Navy, and less than a decade later, he knows he made the right choice.

As a Weapons Engineering Technician in the Atlantic Fleet, he’s served in HMC ships Toronto, Ville de Quebec, and Fredericton, completed extensive deployments in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, helped intercept illicit cargo in the Arabian Sea, and provided important Spanish translation during a trip to South America, just to name a few tasks.

“Every day can be different in the Navy, and that’s part of the reason I joined,” said LS Balbeuna, who was born in the Dominican Republic and arrived in Quebec with his family in 1988.

“I’m around amazing people every day, seeing countries and places that I never thought I would see, and I’m a part of something bigger than just myself.”

Now, LS Balbuena is is reflecting on what may be his most important tasking yet. As part of the 2017 Remembrance Day Sentry Program, he was selected as one of just six CAF members to stand stand sentry at the National War Memorial during ceremonies on November 11.

The program was established in 1998, and selection is considered a high honour, with units nominating members who have shown exceptional service and dedication to their country. The six CAF members, along with one RCMP participant, also take part in a busy week-long program that includes a meeting with the Governor General, visits to Parliament Hill and RCMP facilities, and other special events.

LS Balbeuna is proud to be called upon for such an important ceremonial duty, just like he was earlier this year when he represented the RCN at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, but he prefers to focus on the big picture, rather than his personal accomplishments.

“Of course it feels good to be recognized for how you’ve done your job, but it really isn’t about me. I’ve been tasked to represent the Navy, so I’ll be standing up straight and looking proud on behalf of all my brothers in arms,” he said.

He was joined in Ottawa by his wife Nancy and a number of family members from Quebec, while his four children tuned in to the Remembrance Day service from home.

As someone who came to Canada as an immigrant at a young age, LS Balbeuna has always seen his service as an opportunity to give back to the country for welcoming his family so warmly almost 30 years ago. Honouring our veterans and the sacrifices of those who served in the past is a part of that, he said.

“Since the day my family moved here, when we first touched Canadian soil, we felt a welcoming. I was feeling patriotic before I could even speak the official languages. It makes me so proud to say this is my country, and to be showing respect for people who have given their lives and sacrificed themselves in the name of our values. It’s very important to me.”