By Peter Moon
When a friend told her 20 years ago that the Canadian Army was about to start a new Canadian Ranger patrol in her small First Nation in Northern Ontario Kathleen Beardy decided to go to the first organizing meeting and volunteered.
“My friend told me the army and the Rangers were coming to Muskrat Dam,” she said. “I didn’t know what the Rangers were but I went along and joined. It’s been interesting. The army teaches you how to be organized and to be on time. Being on time was the hard part. That was hard sometimes. But I’ve learned a lot.”
Two decades later she is the master corporal in charge of her community’s Junior Canadian Ranger patrol and a new recipient of the Order of Military Merit, the military equivalent of the civilian Order of Canada.
The prestigious award was created in 1972 to recognize outstanding service and devotion to duty by members of the Canadian Armed Forces. She has already been awarded the Special Service Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration for her military service.
“The Order of Military Merit is an honour she deserves,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Shane MacArthur, the Canadian Army officer who commands the 700 Rangers in 29 mostly remote and isolated First Nations across the Far North of Ontario. Rangers are part-time army reservists.
“She has many years of service, is an active Ranger, and a non-stop volunteer in her community,” he said. “She has also served as a member of her band council.”
“Her compassion, dedication, and support for the families and support for the community was outstanding during the emergency.” Lt.-Col. McArthur said.
Master Corporal Beardy is one of four female members of the 10-person Ranger patrol in Muskrat Dam, a small Oji-Cree settlement of about 250 people 590 kilometers north of Thunder Bay. Her lead job as a Ranger is running the community’s popular Junior Ranger patrol. The culturally appropriate program teaches safety on the land and water and in personal life styles for boys and girls aged 12 to 18.
She was raised on her father’s trap line. “We were raised on traditional food, moose, beaver, rabbit,” she said.” I snared rabbits for food and I started doing that when I was five years old.”
As a child she used a .22-calibre rifle to shoot ptarmigan and grouse for food. When she joined the Rangers the army taught her to shoot with a larger calibre rifle and she harvested her first moose with a .308 rifle.
“She’s a really good shot, we hunt together, really good on the land, and very good at getting the kids on the land,” said Sergeant Emily Beardy, a distant relative and the Muskrat Dam Ranger patrol leader. “She’s well liked in the community. She’s a good Ranger.”
Governor-General Mary Simon will present her with the insignia of the Order of Military Merit at a future date.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is a Ranger with the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)