© Dave Mathieson - Amherst Daily News
Captain Dave Herman, Area Cadet Officer for Nova Scotia, looks on during a change of command ceremony Sunday at the Amherst Armouries. Maralyn Ralph (centre) is retiring as the Commanding Officer for the 154 Amherst Anson Royal Canadian Air Cadets and Captain Donna Roberts is the incoming Commanding Officer. Roberts will begin her duties in August.
AMHERST - She'd like to stay, but she has to go.
"In August I have to retire, I have to come out of a uniform," said Maralyn Ralph, Commanding officer for the 154 Amherst Anson Royal Canadian Air Cadets. "When you're 65 you have to come out."
Rules are rules, especially in the military, but Ralph wishes an exception would be made for volunteers at Cadets Canada.
"I could see the regular force military making people leave at 65, but not the cadets," said Ralph. "We're dealing with the youth, we're there to give them structure."
Ralph would like to keep going until she is 67-years-old.
"Having to get out of the uniform is the toughest thing," said Ralph. "Being forced out of something you really love to do is really tough."
An official change of command ceremony took place Sunday at the Amherst Armouries during the 154 Amherst Anson Royal Air Cadets 71st Annual Ceremonial Review.
Ralph's farewell speech left her in tears and several people in the crowd could be seen wiping tears away.
Ralph received a standing ovation at the end of her speech.
After the speech Ralph and Captain Donna Roberts signed documents making Ralph the outgoing Commanding Officer and Roberts the incoming Commanding Officer.
Ralph has been a volunteer in cadets for 25-years, starting when she was 40-years-old, and says, "The kids keep me young."
Her own kids were already involved in cadets when Ralph joined the organization in 1988 in Sydney.
"The Commanding Officer of 587 (Whitney Pier Air Cadets) needed an administrator and I volunteered, and then in August of 1989 I became an administrator and I never looked back."
She joined the 154 Amherst Anson Air Cadets in 2002 and has been the Commanding Officer since 2006.
Two events stand out during her time in cadets.
Fifteen years ago she flew a T-33 fighter jet.
"It was on the month of my 50th birthday," said Ralph. "The pilot didn't let me land it but he let me fly it. That felt super."
And during a ceremony Feb. 20 in Sydney, Ralph received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, an honour that Ralph said "was overwhelming."
But what stands out most is helping the kids.
"Cadets is the best organization you could ever belong to," said Ralph. "The kids learn how to look after themselves...and if you are in land, sea or air (cadets) you can become a pilot, a coastguard, or you can get an education through the military.
"Many doctors, lawyers and politicians got their start in Cadets."
Roberts will take over from Ralph in August.
Asked what advice she has for Roberts, Ralph laughed and said, "Look after my children and guide them."
She says it's important to respect each cadet's individuality.
"Each child is an individual and each has a different reason for being there, and each one has a different structure they need," said Ralph. "You can't lump them into one category. Every one of them is an individual."
Ralph will continue to help with cadets as a supply technician, and will help guide Roberts through the transition.
Asked for any final words upon her retirement, Ralph wished everybody all the best and hopes they stick with it.
"There's up-hills and down-hills but the benefits will outlive anything," she said.
Awards were presented during the annual review.
Cadets receiving awards are as follows:
Top Level 1 - Hunter Reid-Black
Top Level 2 - Evan Caissie-Stone
Top Level 3 - Brendon Davidson
Top Level 4 - Bradley Beaulieu
Top Level 5 - Caelan McHaffie
Top Junior Award - Noah MacDonald
Top Senior Award - Randy MacNevin
Most Improved Award - Robert Lafreniere
Squadron Commander Award - Randy MacNevin.
Sobey's First Year Achievement Award - Jack McCormick-Lefler
Commanding Officers Award - Caelan McHaffie
Top Marksmanship Award - Megan Porter
Donna Roberts was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain.