By Peter Moon
PEAWANUK – Sergeant Matthew Gull, commander of the Canadian Ranger patrol in Peawanuck, a small Cree community near the coast of Hudson Bay, was driving to his full-time occupation as the foreman at the isolated First Nation’s airport when he got a call on his cell phone.
It told him to expect an important phone call from the Canadian Army.
“I was in total disbelief when I got the call,” said Sergeant Gull. “It was from Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski, commander of the Canadian Army in Ontario. I thought I might be in some kind of trouble. I was talking with a general so I knew something really big was going on. And then he told me he was calling to me to give me some good news.”
That was how he learned he was being appointed a member of the Order of Military Merit, one of Canada’s highest honours and the military equivalent of the civilian Order of Canada. The honour was created in 1972 to recognize outstanding service and devotion to duty by members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Sergeant Gull, like all Canadian Rangers, is a part-time Army reservist serving in the Canadian North. He has been a Ranger for 22 years and commander of the Peawanuck Ranger patrol for more than seven years. He has already been awarded the Special Service Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration for his military service, as well as a commendation for saving lives in numerous search and rescue operations.
He will travel to Ottawa to receive the insignia of the Order of Military Merit from Governor-General Julie Payette at Rideau Hall, her official residence.
“As a commanding officer, when you find out one of your Rangers is receiving such a distinguished honour it makes you extremely proud,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur, who commands the Rangers in 27 First Nations across the Far North of Ontario. “You feel very happy for the individual – in this case, Sergeant Gull – because you understand what it has taken for him to earn it.
“He represents the commitment, dedication, and expertise that is out there in the Rangers. He is the epitome of that. He is immensely deserving of this recognition.”
Over the years Sergeant Gull has participated in dozens of search and rescue operations for missing hunters, trappers, and fishermen. He has taught southern troops how to survive and operate in the North. He has participated in many military activities outside his isolated community. In Peawanuck, he works with the Junior Canadian Rangers and teaches them his on- the- land skills. He is also heavily involved in a variety of community activities as a volunteer.
He has two daughters. Nova, the eldest, is a Canadian Ranger and her sister Aurora is a Junior Ranger.
“After the call from the general I was left with a mix of disbelief and the realization that I was being honoured,” Sergeant Gull said. “I think I am still shaking from it.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)