It’s been nearly a decade since Cpl. Jordan James Anderson was killed during a deployment to Afghanistan but his mother, Sheila Anderson, still finds it difficult to speak about him without getting emotional.
“I keep thinking it’ll get easier, but it doesn’t,” said Anderson.
This Remembrance Day, Anderson will represent all mothers who have lost a child during their military service as the Royal Canadian Legion’s Silver Cross Mother for this year. Laying a wreath at the ceremony in Ottawa, Anderson will serve as a real-life reminder to the Canadian public of the significance of Nov. 11.
“I’m excited to lay this wreath and I’m excited to be in this role, but it’s a tough one,” stated Anderson.
Anderson is the first Silver Cross Mother to be chosen from the Northwest Territories since the Legion initiated this tradition in 1936. Anderson and her husband James have been living in the Northwest Territories for 38 years now, where she is working as the Manager, Territorial Courts with the Department of Justice.
Just a few years after moving to the Territories from Ottawa, in 1981 the couple welcomed their first born to their family: Jordan. Anderson describes her son as bright, an avid reader and a nonconformist that got in trouble all the time.
“When he argued or debated or broke the rules it was because he believed what he learned or knew was correct. It’s pretty hard to argue with someone who thinks he’s right,” laughed Anderson through her tears.
Jordan, eldest of four brothers, dropped out of university after one year to join the CAF in 2000 in Regina, Saskatchewan. He broke the news to his parents after joining the military. Anderson says she found it shocking and had hoped he would use his potential for more.
“I was proud of him for doing that. People don’t make those decisions easily,” recalled Anderson.
Jordan was a member of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based out of Edmonton, Alberta.
In 2005, a parachuting training accident almost ended Jordan’s career when he crushed two vertebrae. Doctors gave him only a 10 per cent chance of being able to stay in the infantry.
Perhaps this is a reason behind Anderson’s passion for ill and injured soldiers.
“Keep them in the Army, keep them in the Forces, keep them feeling like they’re part of the group. It’s so important in the reintegration process that they aren’t just dumped on the side of the road with a ‘here’s your backpack.’ I don’t think that’s fair, and I don’t’ think that’s reasonable especially with the role that they play. I mean they represent Canada and represent our values and morals, and for us to turn our back on them when they get back it’s not honourable,” said Anderson.
Cpl. Jordan, however, bounced back and returned to Afghanistan for his second mission in 2007. On July 4, he and five other Canadian soldiers were killed when their armoured vehicle struck an explosive device while returning from a patrol.
While he was oversees, Jordan was studying to obtain a degree in Bachelor of Arts on his behalf from the University of Manitoba. He was just two courses shy of completing his degree. Just a few weeks after he was killed, the University awarded him a posthumous degree.
Anderson was deeply touched by the support of her family, friends and even strangers after the death of her son. She says it is this message she wants to relay to all mothers of fallen soldiers.
“I just want to tell them they aren’t alone, everyone appreciates them and appreciates their children,” said Anderson.
Anderson was told in April that she had been chosen to be this year’s Silver Cross Mother. Besides playing a role in Remembrance Day ceremonies, she will be responsible for other duties throughout the year. She is hoping she will be able to make a change during her year-long tenure.
“I am deeply honoured just to be able to be in this position and talk to people who are able to make change. I’m really looking forward to taking advantage to speaking to people who can make a change about the way our vets are being treated. They need our support.
“It means that I have the opportunity for my own and my son’s wishes to be known in relation to how veterans are treated. That’s very important to me that people understand the soldiers of the Armed Forces that are returning to Canada need help they need the support of Canadians. And the only way they can get that is through vet programs,” said Anderson.