Wearing SAIT colours with pride
Canadian Armed Forces lieutenant talks deep connection to institution
Lt. Jeffery Stewart-Taylor has crossed through the desert of Afghanistan and the frozen tundra of the Arctic during his 15 years of service.
This May, Stewart-Taylor crossed the stage at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) to receive his Bachelor of Sciences — wearing SAIT colours as he did.
We spoke with the proud alumnus about his connection to SAIT, military service and what Remembrance Day means to him.
Why did you choose to wear your SAIT colours as you crossed the stage to receive your BSc from the RMC?
I had the privilege to represent SAIT at my graduation from the Royal Military College with the same pride I had when I first donned the colours in 1991 as class valedictorian for the technologies.
SAIT was a foundation for my pursuit and success in a higher-learning environment. I value the impact my SAIT experience had on both my RMC academics and leadership roles.
Your relationship with SAIT began in 1988 and continued for 20 years - how did your time here help shape your military career?
I chose to engage in the student government (SAITSA) from the moment I walked on campus as a full-time student in 1988. I knew this not only offered an exposure to organizational behaviour, management, public speaking and the responsibility of reporting to a higher authority, but moreover, leadership. These qualities are invaluable in the Canadian Armed Forces.
From this foundation, I pursued volunteer positions post-SAIT. This was especially important when I arrived at RMC in 2014, where leadership skills, in particular, are paramount. I was assigned and volunteered for leadership positions at RMC that I confidently took on — thanks to my involvement in SAITSA, in addition to life experience and military training.
What did you learn at SAIT that you've applied to your time in the military?
My SAIT experience, in terms of academics, proved to be state-of-the-art and timeless. I knew in my early days at SAIT that I was attending an institute that offered a world of learning that was current and available in so many disciplines. When I graduated from Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) in 1991, I already had two technical specialty certificates in hand.
By the time I moved on with my military career and prepared for my tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2008, I had achieved three more. I knew it was necessary to stay current with the ever-changing state of technology. My SAIT education helped me be open-minded to inevitable changes and advancements.
What impact overall has your military service had on you?
As a soldier with almost 15 years of service, I have been in a desert war zone, seen the wondrous expanse of the Arctic and countless points in between. I have had the pleasure of serving with some of the most dedicated people I could ever have imagined, and said farewell to fallen comrades. I can say with all honesty that volunteering as a member of the CAF has certainly changed my life for the better.
For the past 15 years, I cannot imagine waking up each day and not donning my uniform to once again serve the people of Canada and provide a means to protect the freedoms we as a society have come to enjoy.
What does Remembrance Day mean to you?
Remembrance Day, for me, is a time of reflection, recognition, gratitude and joy. Reflection occurs during the moment of silence when I think about my own experience and attempt to see the realities of war through the eyes of those who have served and sacrificed under such conditions. Recognition is from knowing that those who chose to uphold our country's freedoms go forth with sincere intent. Gratitude is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and that inspires me to serve with pride. The joy comes from the ability to celebrate the lives of our serving members, past and present, who unselfishly stepped forward for the cause of peace.
How do you observe Remembrance Day?
I observe Remembrance Day two ways. First, by visiting schools and talking to our young people so they can understand why we wear the poppy and conduct ceremonies all over Canada on Nov. 11. The second is by participating in ceremonies, wherever that may be, as a representative of our serving citizens, in the company of those who gather to give thanks for the freedoms we have all come to enjoy.
Why do you feel that it's important for Canadians to take the time to observe Remembrance Day?
How Canadians recognize Remembrance Day is an individual decision we all have the freedom to choose. I hope that the many lives that were sacrificed for the privilege of that choice would merit a moment each year on Nov. 11 to remember why.
The City of Calgary website has a list of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Calgary on Sunday, Nov. 11