Saturday, September 10, 2011

The RCMP Regimental Ball

As I slipped those two blue and white Wood Buffalo RCMP Regimental Ball tickets into my purse to head out for the evening I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that my friend and I where heading out for the night and there would be men in uniform, good food and a band. 

As we entered the room it was hard to miss the RCMP officers dressed in their finest Red Serge and it was quite an incredible sight. Everywhere you looked people were dressed in their finest black-tie attire mingling among the formally dressed RCMP. There were silent auction items strategically placed to support Fort McMurray Victim Services for the patrons to bid on.  At each table setting was a gift of the official RCMP Wood Buffalo Detachment Regimental Ball Challenge Coin emblazoned with Maintiens le droit which means Maintain the Right.
It was also hard to miss the intricate ice sculptures adorning the room.  They were everywhere from table centerpieces to life size RCMP to a Martini bar made entirely of ice.  I watched in fascination as the bartender poured the Martini through the maze of  ice to arrive at the waiting glass.  From my table I had a clear view and more than once conversation was stopped mid-sentence as someone who had come over for a conversation looked on as the process repeated itself.

After the dignitaries had be marched into the room and the piper had been paid, which is by tradition a quaich containing a dram (about 3.5 ml) of whisky, the Ball began in earnest. The food was beyond belief, there were awards handed out for service, and we toasted the Queen. The evening had threads of historical information that wove their way throughout the night. Truth be told I loved those parts of the evening. What I did not realize was that while the custom of dining is believed to began in the monasteries, it was adopted by the early universities, and later spread to military units when the officer's mess was established. British officers of the 19th century were drawn from the aristocracy, and while they considered themselves gentlemen, they were not necessarily men of means; third and fourth sons had little chance of inheriting title and lands under primogeniture. While the pooling of resources may have been out of economic necessity, the regimental officer's mess maintained the social stratification of English society and ensured that the traditions of gentlemanly conduct were maintained and inculcated to junior officers. So begins the Regimental Ball. Bet you didn't know you were going to learn something about history when you first started reading did you? 
In my opinion the Regimental Ball supported one of the worthiest unsung heroes of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray Victim Services. This is a not-for-profit organization that provides immediate, short term crisis intervention services to people affected by crime, tragedy or disaster. One of the many important tasks Victim Services members undertake is accompanying RCMP officers to notify next-of-kin when someone has died. It's members can also be seen  accompanying  victims of crime through the often bewildering court process, and helping victims find their voice in the criminal justice system. They also provide information, support and referrals to other agencies for victims of crime. It is because these people with hearts of gold and compassion for their fellow man that the victims of crime can believe once more that there is good in the world.
The most touching and memorable part of the evening for me happened at the beginning of the night when in recognition of their fallen comrades the brave men and women of our RCMP had set A Table For One. This so touched my heart that I have copied it down to share with you.
``We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honour near the head table. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our Force are missing from our ranks.  Our Comrades are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence.
  • In their honour, the table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one member, and our everlasting memories:
  • The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of motive and their intention to serve their country's call;
  • The single red rose signifies the blood shed in sacrifice and reminds us of family and friends;
  • The red ribbon represents our determination to never forget them;
  • A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate;
  • The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless tears of families and friends;
  • The glass is inverted as they cannot join us in the toast this night;
  • The chair is empty. They are not here;
  • The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope that their lives were not given in vain;
  • The Canadian flag reminds us that they made the supreme sacrifice in the service of law and order for our country.
Let us remember them and never forget their sacrifices.  May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”

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