The Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force 105th Anniversary Inspection Parade

His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT. SC. President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago addressed the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force 105th Anniversary Inspection Parade at Queen’s Royal College – May 9, 2015.

The following is the content of His Excellency’s address:

Firstly, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on that splendid display of drill and precision timing. Those of us watching from this side only see the finished product, and as a people, that is what we love. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we love success but not necessarily the road to success. How many of us truly appreciate the effort and the hard work, the drills, the personal sacrifice and the inconvenience that are all responsible for any measure of success. Cadets and Officers you all have endured hours of intense sun to execute your movements and manoeuvres which were done with pride, dexterity, grace and military accuracy. Today you have demonstrated the great potential of our youth and even greater potential lies within. You have demonstrated that you are prepared to move on from being a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago to being a patriot. You have the power, the power to change the world, to demand standards and international best practices of us all in the adult world. Yes, the power to be relentless in your pursuit to create a fair, just and equitable society and this power I speak of, rests in your hands and in your hearts.

We live in a society where we are subjected daily to the flotsam and jetsam of human conduct, to the point that even if you are wrong, you have to find some way of stating that you are right. We believe we have a right to not only do wrong, but to justify that wrong. And I am not referring to any particular incident, and I don’t need to, because there is a vista of misconduct throughout our society that must be apparent to all. I will however, not lose faith because I have great faith in the young people of this nation, and I have great faith in you here today, products of a disciplined military environment.

Do not get me wrong, I am not demanding perfection of you all, as many adults in our society are prone to do, because we all know “the runner stumbles”, but with the training, the discipline, the camaraderie, and the focus that have been instilled in you by your section commanders and platoon commanders, you will have the capacity not to lie prostrate on the ground as many of our adults do, immersed in self-pity and a simple lack of ambition, but to get up to continue on that road of life to success, achievable ambition, and a fruitful life.

We need a voice of reason, and where is that voice of reason? At times when I have engaged that voice and some among us that have, as we have done on diverse occasions, no one listens. Many either conveniently forget, are either victims of indifference and agendas, or are caught up in a world that is all about ‘Me, Myself and I’. You young people have shown many in our adult population that it is not about ‘Me, Myself and I’ by your sense of service, by your lack of selfishness and the way you comport yourselves in a disciplined fashion, in your villages, your communities and your towns.

For example, last week I was privileged to meet progressive young persons, specifically outstanding young women, Form 3 students of Naparima Girls’ High School, who felt that the cognoscenti in our society had dropped the ball on the issue of cybercrime and cyber misfeasance by allowing the Cybercrime Bill to lapse. They were able to garner some four thousand signatures demanding that those who are in the Parliament including those who have since left, revive the Cybercrime Bill to deal with crimes on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, that have damaged lives irrevocably, that have mashed up self-esteem to the extent that persons have committed suicide, and that have been a conduit for terrorism and child pornography. And in the face of the deafening silence and callous indifference of all the major players in our society, they have issued a clarion call to arms, for our parliamentarians to stop representing themselves, and represent the constituents and by extension the society and nation at large.

These young women have shown the power that the young have to even influence the global community. UNESCO has made overtures to partner with these young women and their initiative. By this act, they have demonstrated what selfless service to nation is all about. And so it has been for centuries, where young persons have put the needs of others before themselves. Joan of Arc successfully led the French Army against the English at the age of nineteen, and Malala, at the age of fifteen, by her intervention, at great personal risk and continuing risk has done far more for education and woman empowerment than many world leaders and organizations. A few days ago Ms. Mhairi Black, a twenty year old University student, belonging to the Scottish National Party whipped a senior Labour Leader, Douglas Alexander in the recent election to become the youngest law maker in the English Parliament since the Seventeenth Century, 1667 to be exact.

As I speak, events and ceremonies are being celebrated across Europe to mark the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow and Washington. These commemorations are being marked by 21 gun salutes, by beams of lights illuminating war monuments paying tribute to fallen servicemen and women, who were instrumental in the destruction of totalitarian regimes. We must therefore remember that many young men and women your age died fighting for the cause of freedom and liberty, something that we must never forget or rather, that we must always remember.

I was quite disheartened when at last year’s Memorial Day Parade, there were so few of us there placing wreaths for fallen servicemen at the Cenotaph in Memorial Park. I was appalled how amidst among impeccably dressed servicemen, there were so many persons shabbily dressed, not wearing a poppy. I intentionally walked with poppies and distributed them with a view to raise the sense of awareness of what was being celebrated. This year, I beseech you all to come out in your numbers to experience that moment of deep reverence. A moment that is filled with great pain for those Trinidad and Tobago citizens who have lost loved ones through conflict and war, be it World War One, World War Two, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the Kuwati War or The Iraqi War. A few years ago, I visited the Arlington National Cemetery and I was moved when I thought about the bodies of young men and women lying there. Their graves reminded me that they did not live to see the benefits of their honourable fight. But they have made an indelible mark on their country, and the world and that ultimate sacrifice, as respected there, must also be respected here, and be the subject of our deepest appreciation.

And speaking of appreciation, the depreciation of our military museum is a stark reminder that we do not really appreciate ourselves. So many of our brave men and women paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy the freedoms we so blatantly flaunt. And yet, their efforts just fade into oblivion as so few of us actually remember or respect their sacrifice. Our military museum is treated not even as an afterthought. Compare this to how others treat their history. In Jamaica, there is a museum so well kept that the only word to describe it is ‘impeccable’. On the other hand, our military museum can barely stay open, a veritable derelict, and we speak of nationalism and patriotism? We desperately need a place for the military museum. As a country, if we were serious about who we are and our history, a proper military museum must have pride of place. The Chaguaramas Military History and Aerospace Museum must be a place that we must be proud of displaying the gallantry, service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women. I therefore wish to publicly commend, as Commander-in-Chief, the fight of one man and his wife, Retired Commander Gaylord Kelshall and Mrs Linda Kelshall, for fighting the good fight that successive Governments have not had the decency to recognize and support.

Just imagine, in that museum, a veritable treasure trove of history is at our very fingertips. For example, the breastplate and cabaset of a Spanish Conquistador from the 1500s, an 1879 Zulu War Spear, uniforms from World War One, like a jungle suit from Commander Ken Goellnight (Garnesh) who was a commander in the Frontier Force Rifles, and Bronze Stars, flying helmets and Digital Flight Control Systems of Commander Larry McIntosh, and of course Squadron Leader Ulric Cross, to name a few of our own local heroes who made their mark on the global scale. Their efforts and the efforts of others like them, need of necessity be engraved in our psyche and more importantly in a place of reverence, with manicured lawns of great solemnity. And yet we glibly speak, without referencing those who have died, that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Penultimately, I have to express my deepest gratitude to the Commandant, Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers of the Cadet Force, who continue to sacrifice and lead at great personal inconvenience on the sometimes underappreciated altar of volunteerism. Genuine volunteerism, as displayed by these Officers and Warrant Officers neither makes demands nor require reciprocity, but rather support systems must be put in place to assist the volunteer. And it would be remiss of me, in a world of nuts and bolts, if I did not suggest that a stipend of sort be paid. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is sometimes a great challenge to be a volunteer, because it can be a thankless and expensive job.  There is also a need to engage in more effective outreach programmes in out districts to enlist prospective cadets. I have encountered many students from outlying districts of the country, Palo Seco, Erin and Buenos Aires, Cedros, Icacos and Cap de Ville, Delaford and Charlottesville, Matelot, Toco and Sans Souci who have expressed a burning desire to become a Cadet, but unfortunately, they have no units in their schools.  I know that soon enough that will be a reality, and I look forward to the day that the Commandant’s report will reflect that fact.

So young men and women, continue to stand proud and wear your uniforms with pride, continue to fight the good fight marked by discipline, respect for others, genuine service and social consciousness. After 105 years the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force continues to make leaders out of our young men and women, and is an institution that remains relevant in progressive human development and nation building. May God continue to richly bless you all.