A standing ovation was a true indication of Barrhead Composite High School’s support for Canadian soldiers serving on missions away from home.
The ovation came at the end of a long-distance conversation between Spruce Grove native Cpl. Darren Burt and BCHS students on Dec. 21. Burt is serving on his fifth tour with the Canadian military, and he is currently stationed at a Kandahar airfield as an aircraft mechanic. He is cousin to BCHS associate principal Karen Fischer, who was responsible for setting up the meeting between her students and her family member.
Students took time out of their hectic last day of school before the holiday break to wish the soldier a merry Christmas. They filled the east gym and were buzzing with excitement, but a hush immediately fell over the crowd as their attention was drawn to the giant projection screen hanging from the ceiling. It was here that Cpl. Burt was able to talk live to the students via Skype, a computer program that allows high-quality video calling between two points. In Barr-head, students were just getting started in their day at 10:30 a.m., but for Burt, it was closing in on 10:30 p.m.
Students asked the soldier how he was handling being away from family and friends during the holidays.
“There’s no snow,” he told them with a laugh. “We try to make it as festive as possible. We get gifts sent to us, and we try to decorate as best we can.”
Burt said he misses his family and friends every day of the year he isn’t with them, and not just around the holidays.
“When I’m home, I try to spend as much time as possible with them,” he said. “I miss all the special occasions, but this is the job I’ve signed up to do, and I have to do it.”
Burt will be heading home to Spruce Grove in April 2011. He said he isn’t sure whether he’ll have to go back to Afghanistan, but he will if need be.
“I don’t really want to come back, but it’s my job.”
Students then watched a PowerPoint presentation on the adventures of Nibbles, a stuffed mouse given to Burt by his daughter. On the presentation, Nibbles is photographed in and around the airfield on which Burt serves. His adventures can be followed of Facebook.
Burt told the students that when he gets home in April, he might pay the school a visit. Judging by the reaction of the students, Burt would receive a very warm welcome to Barrhead.
This was the second attempt at the connection between the students and Cpl. Burt. It was something BCHS had planned for Remembrance Day, but those plans fell through. Students were disappointed when they didn’t get the chance to talk to the soldier, so it was a great opportunity for them to get to do it, Fischer said, adding everyone found the experience to be very positive.
“Even the staff was thankful, and saying how meaningful this was for them,” Fischer said.