Fergus soldier in step with Ceremonial Guard

A young Fergus woman is spending time in the nation’s capital this summer as part of the prestigious Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Melissa Holwerda is part of the guard and has already been on parade at the Governor General’s residence and on Parliament Hill.

“It’s cool,” Holwerda told the Advertiser in a telephone interview from Ottawa.

Born and raised in Fergus, she is the daughter of Harold and Jane Holwerda.

“The Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Band of the Ceremonial Guard, and the Pipes and Drums of the Ceremonial Guard are the most recognizable military unit in Canada,” James Benning, spokesman for the Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Armed Forces, said in an email.

“For over 50 years the changing of the guard has been a top Ottawa summer attraction, having thrilled thousands of visitors on Parliament Hill. They proudly provide sentries at the National War Memorial and at Rideau Hall, the official residency of [Governor General David Johnston].”

Holwerda, a private stationed at Canadian Forces Base Meaford, has been a soldier since October of last year.

She enlisted “so I could have a career that I would be proud of doing.”

To become a part of the guard, Holwerda underwent three weeks of intensive drills, during which she mastered the precision movements, attained a high standard of dress and deportment, and underwent extensive physical fitness training.

The training, according to her, teaches guard members “to be in sync” for its precision performances.

“That’s kind of hard,” she said of coordinating movements with 18 or 32 members.

She was also fitted for the traditional red tunic and “bearskin” hat that distinguishes the guard. The tunics have been part of the guard for decades and Holwerda admitted hers needed a bit of adjustment to fit properly.

“The point is representing Canada,” she said of the pomp and tradition associated with the dress and precision performances.

Her tour in Ottawa will end at the end of August when she returns to her base in Meaford.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” she said of her military career and tour with the guard.