By Lyonel Doherty

One has to wonder what Luke Wieler dreams about. 

Marching on an endless road? Glowing green aliens in a sea of sharks? Helping King Charles escape the paparazzi?

But the closest thing to reality is the marching since he has done plenty of it as a Sailor First Class in the Royal Canadian Navy. Actually, you may have caught a glimpse of him recently if you watched the coronation of King Charles; he was a guard member in Operation Golden Orb (the operation name for the coronation).

Needless to say, the parade was a huge undertaking, Wieler said, noting they had to practice, especially since some countries do not have the same standard of drill.

“There were no weekends, only marching and drill. Often people mentioned how much pain their knees and feet were in from all the marching.”

Wieler recalled the very difficult overnight practice march through London, noting the length of the march was twice as long as the actual route on coronation day.

But it was all worth it to hear everyone cheering for the King at Buckingham Palace. He received a coin from a British general, and was invited to the coronation concert at Windsor Castle. However, the highlight for him was the actual coronation parade that saw approximately 7,000 military personnel take part. 

“While doing so we could hear a few Canadians mixed in amongst the crowds of people. Recognizing our uniforms (which was difficult to do), they yelled out to us.”

If someone was paying close attention, they would have seen the sailors standing up straighter with more confidence, with their chains lifted higher. 

During the event, Wieler met Canada’s Prime Minister and presented him with a newly designed morale patch from his ship, the HMCS OTTAWA. 

Looking back, Wieler didn’t always plan to join the military, but they called him first. 

Born in Invermere hospital and raised by Stanley and Shirley Wieler on their ranch in Wilmer, he was a farm boy through and through. And like a warm blanket in winter, he was always surrounded by family. “I was always on my best behaviour and raised to offer help to anyone who needed it.”

He recalled his father and grandfather, Jim Statham, imparting their words of wisdom on a few occasions while working in the hay fields: “A good name is worth more than gold.” So young Wieler always tried to honour the family name by representing them in a positive manner. He not only developed a strong work ethic, but became physically strong that would later serve him well in the military. 

He graduated from David Thompson Secondary School in 2007 and worked full time for the Canfor sawmill in Radium. The recession took his job in 2009, so he applied for a Bachelor Degree in theology at Ambrose University in Calgary. In 2011 he took a break from his studies and went to the Alberta College of Art and Design to expand his artistic skills. Returning to Ambrose University in 2013, Wieler wrestled with some personal convictions regarding his future career – would it be the military or Frontline Missions in South Africa? Frontline Missions is an organization that sends humanitarian aid and relief to active war-torn countries. 

“Laying it in God’s hands, whoever contacted me first, I’ll pursue that path. The military called me first.”

He took the oath in December 2014 in Calgary, and a month later was sent to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec for basic training.

“I remember in great detail that during the first week of basic training several people were willfully released from training because they were not accustomed to the demanding conditions they were immersed in. It was either being yelled at or the high standards of time management and physical requirements that broke many people.”

As the weeks went by, it all became normal for Wieler and his mates; the written tests, the physical challenges, the firearm handling, even the demands of having only two minutes to finish a meal and freezing your butt off during those 30-second ice cold showers. 

During week 10, many recruits struggled with severe depression and exhaustion, Wieler said. 

“I remember myself and two other fellow Christians within my platoon . . . during our free time we helped others with tasks or encouraged others who were mentally or spiritually defeated.”

Wieler said many people turned to smoking or drinking because they couldn’t cope with the stress. Others found a different outlet. 

“Before I started basic training, bars were installed on the windows on the fourth and up to the high floors in order to prevent recruits from jumping out of the windows. While I was there someone jumped from the fourth-floor window and landed on the top of the cafeteria roof. The gravel on top of the roof softened their landing which prevented death.”

During week 11, things got really difficult. His platoon and two others were sent to the Farnham forest for an extended period of time, sleeping on snow and mud in bivy tents. The end of the week saw them surviving in a makeshift base; they spent days and nights patrolling, searching vehicles for explosives or weapons, conducting attacks on other platoons, and defending themselves from attack. There was tear gas to overcome too. 

“My shoes and feet were wet the entire time that I was there. To this day, the damage to my feet never truly healed and they occasionally bleed when they dry out.”

By week 12 their skills were honed. “Our sergeant briefly told us that one of the many reasons we march and do drill as a military is to present ourselves to onlookers and the world. There is a psychological effect that it has on people.”

Wieler learned a very valuable lesson from basic training, and it’s this: “No one person is talented in all things, no one is perfect. When you are within a group of people and pressed to perform difficult tasks with them, the almost insignificant skills each person has to offer has the greatest effects.”

Wieler truly enjoys his career as a weapons engineer technician specializing in communications. It’s not only what the military stands for, it’s the sights and adventures it offers. He loves visiting different ports and watching “strange things at sea.” How strange? Seeing the water glow green with light-producing algae. Not being able to tell the difference between the ocean and the night sky, which feels like you’re on a ship flying through space because there is no moon or cloud cover. Or whenever the ship stops, sharks swim up from the depths to check out your mysterious craft.

But the most memorable time for Wieler was during a deployment in the South Pacific in 2015. The HMCS Vancouver was conducting a submarine-hunting exercise off the coast of New Zealand. 

“We were caught in a storm that had massive waves. I still remember those swells, fun times, but when the storm was over an earthquake struck the south of New Zealand. It was powerful enough to lift up the sea bed and damage homes and roads.”

Wieler said he honestly didn’t expect all of these opportunities to be available to him while serving Canada. It’s a career choice he has never regretted for a second.