For William Geernaert, life will never be the same.
But the 40-year-old from Fort St. James B.C. is determined to make the best out of all that comes his way since retiring from the Canadian Forces in 2012.
“I guess a part of the reason I joined was historical,” Geernaert said. “Both my father and grandfather served.”
Wanting change and a new adventure, Geernaert was ready to join.
But this wasn’t the only reason he felt he had to do his part.
“I remember how 9/11 affected me and the entire world. It all seemed like a weird movie. Watching the news, that’s all you would hear about,” Geernaert said.
“I knew I wanted to help make a difference.”
But Geernaert’s views changed when returning from Afghanistan.
“When I came back, I saw the world differently,” he said.
“And you see life differently.”
Geernaert was seriously injured in an improvised device blast on Aug. 4, 2009. But the trooper still managed to fight off an insurgent ambush for hours before reaching medical aid.
On June 10, 2011, His Excellence, the Governor General of Canada, on behalf of her Majesty the Queen, awarded Geernaert with the Mention of Dispatches for his heroic actions.
“All in all, my experiences weren’t all bad. You get to see so much and your fellow soldiers become close friends. We were all like family,”Geernaert said.
Today, Geernaert sees his future in a different light and with a new focus.
“For me, it’s all about my kids. You just don’t know how much family means until you get through something like this,”Geernaert said.
He remembers vividly that day in August, 2009 when he made it out alive and called home.
“I remember talking to my son. He wasn’t even in kindergarten yet and he was telling me all about his day. It was such a happy moment to hear from home.”
For Geernaert today, it’s all about family but also about keeping busy.
“I like building things and I volunteer a lot whether it’s kid’s soccer or hockey. I need to stay busy.”
Geernaert also has a passion for the great outdoors and all that the north has to offer.
So, what does Remembrance Day mean to Geernaert today?
For me, it still means so much about the older guys but every soldier has their time, their important moment,” Geernaert says.
“My great-great-grandfather lost five grandsons in World War 1.”
And for Geernaert, memories of his own will always stay with him but his vision for the future remains clear.”
“It was such a big part of my life,” he says.
“And every day I remember but it’s all about making the best of it.”
“My kids keep me going and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Geernaert said.
“After all, for me, it’s all about them at the end of the day.”