When people ask Sgt. Rylan Betker about the dangers that come with serving his country on the battlefield, he says it’s just part of the job.
“Every day you’re overseas, you’re rolling the dice,” Betker said, speaking about his eight-month tour in Afghanistan.
“At any moment a rocket could come raining down on you, or a mortar bomb, or some kind of munition could hit you.”
The 29-year-old said since it’s out of his control, he doesn’t focus too much on what could happen and admits he wouldn’t be unable to do his job otherwise.
“You kind of just shrug it off and if it’s my time, it’s my time. And go on with life as usual,” Betker said.
Betker has been in the Canadian Armed Forces for 12 years, but added military service has been part of his life from a young age.
He’d hear stories from his grandfather, who served with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders out of Winnipeg when they took part in the Dieppe raid in August 1942.
Betker still struggles to compare his service to that of his grandfather’s, but noted it’s been an on-going conversation over the last couple of years within the military.
“A lot of us Afghan vets, we don’t really think of ourselves as veterans because growing up, we always saw the world war one, world war two and the Korean vets. They are the definition of what a veteran is,” Betker said.
“It wasn’t until lately a lot of us starting accepting that we could be considered veterans too.”
He said each conflict is it’s “own beast” and hard to compare.
“At the end of the day, we all served our country in some fashion.”
Betker noted many things have changed in the years since, including how soldiers talk with loved ones back home. It use to be one would write a letter – and maybe it would arrive at its intended destination, maybe it wouldn’t.
Nowadays, soldiers use email, Skype and satellite phones to stay in touch.
“At least once a week you’re told, use a sat phone to call home, let your family know that you’re doing okay,” Betker said.
This Remembrance Day however, Betker won’t have to use technology to stay close. He’s back at home with his unit in Regina and will be part of a 21-gun-salute at the legislature Friday.
After that, Betker will spend time with fellow soldiers catching up, telling stories and reflecting on what it means to be a veteran on Remembrance Day.