From an early age, Greg Buffalo, a Heavy Equipment Operator at our Mildred Lake site in northeast Alberta, knew he wanted to join the Armed Forces. Growing up in Maskwacis, Alta., and being Cree, the Indigenous soldiers he encountered at powwows with his parents, seeing their dignified presence, proudly carrying flags in their military attire, left a mark on his young mind.

"Even though I did not personally know any Native soldiers, they were my heroes,” says Greg.

When he was seven, Greg's father took him and his siblings to an airshow. Amidst the soaring performances of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Canada's national military aerobatics flight team, Greg realized his aspiration to serve his country.

When he was 26, Greg enlisted in the Canadian Forces and was sent to Montreal, Que., for training. Facing the rigors of military training and hardships with some fellow trainees who did not accept Greg because he was Indigenous, he grappled with a fear of failure. He remembers the advice his father gave him, "You could serve in the military for only five or 20 years. But remember, the reserve we live on, and its people will always be here for you. This home will forever be yours to return to."

Greg Buffalo in uniform
Greg graduating from Basic Recruitment Training in Montreal, Que

Unbeknownst to Greg, the Indigenous veterans before him also faced incredible adversity. At the time of the First World War, Indigenous people who wanted to serve were not given the opportunity, due to not being considered “citizens”. At the time of the Second World War upon returning from duty, Indigenous veterans experienced a loss of their Indigenous status and exclusion from benefits available to non-Indigenous veterans. This policy persisted between 1932 and 1936 leaving many Indigenous veterans in a state of despair.

Greg in uniform in front of a fighter jet
Greg at his place of work at 4 Wing Cold Lake in front of one of the CF-18 jets that he maintained and loaded weapons.

Upon completing his training, Greg embarked on an aircraft course, influenced by his lifelong fascination with the Snowbirds, becoming an aircraft technician, stationed at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in northern Alberta.

In 2001, Greg undertook a weapon load course, and shortly after completing the program, he was promoted from private to corporal. It was a scary time as the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded.

"I remember that morning of September 11, 2001, I received a call from my Sergeant, urgently calling me for duty,” recalls Greg. “As I rushed to base in my uniform, the heightened security and military presence were like nothing I had seen before. The realization of the situation set in, and I felt sick and fearful."

Having visited the World Trade Towers in New York in 1998, the news of their collapse was a profoundly unsettling experience for Greg.

"To know that the towers collapsed and that lives lost was a truly terrifying feeling."

Throughout his military career, Greg gained extensive experience, undertaking various training courses and exercises to increase his expertise in the field.

"I loved my line of work, from working on fighter jets to aircraft maintenance and serving as a weapon loader; every experience was precious to me and my career."

Greg in his military uniform.
2006, the year Greg decided to leave the army and pursue a career as a Heavy Equipment Operator.

His journey in the military ended when he got the opportunity to work as a Heavy Equipment Operator at the Syncrude sites. The career change allowed him to spend more time with his three children.

Both Indigenous Veterans Day, November 8, and Remembrance Day, November 11, are days of solemn reflection, and serve as reminders of the bravery and selflessness exhibited by our all veterans. It’s also a time to pay our respects to those who have served and continue to serve, expressing unwavering gratitude for their dedication and sacrifices.