REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – The U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, and the Army Security Assistance Enterprise, said goodbye and best wishes to USASAC’s departing Command Sgt. Maj. Gene Canada, July 17.
Gen. Edward Daly, Army Materiel Command’s commanding general, hosted the event as Canada retired after more than 33 years of service to the Army and nation.
“I am honored to be able to preside over this ceremony,” said Daly. “It’s bittersweet as on one-hand we are going to bid farewell to a great warrior, a great Soldier, a great leader, and a great man of character, and on the other-hand, we are here to celebrate this great non-commissioned officer’s career after 33 years in the U.S. Army.”
“This ceremony is much more than a ceremony, it is a celebration of 33 years of selfless service to the U.S. Army,” Daly said.
Daly reflected that Canada’s distinguished career didn’t happen by chance, rather that it was based on a rich tradition of service in Canada’s family that formed the foundation to who he is today.
Knowing that selfless service ran in the Canada family, Daly went on to recognize Canada’s grandfather who served in Vietnam, his father, Chief Petty Officer Larry Sr., who gave more than 24 years to the Air Force and Navy, and two uncles who served in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“Through the example of your father, and the guidance of your late mother, Georgia, who also worked at the Navy Exchange and Army and Air Force Exchange Service for more than 30 years, that really developed your values and beliefs,” Daly stated. “It really cemented your standards, discipline, integrity and character that I mentioned earlier.”
Canada, who retires as only the third command sergeant major in USASAC’s 55-year history, thanked his four children and wife, Lawanda, a former Army supply Soldier herself, for their sacrifices over his long career.
“As most are aware, it’s hard being a military spouse, especially when their Soldier is deployed,” Canada said. “Wanda, I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for our family and me; from the time we first met on that field at Fort Carson (doing post cleanup details), I knew you were my forever love. You sacrificed your military career to ensure our family was taken care of, and you were truly a better Soldier than I could ever be.”
Canada lost his parents many years ago but credits his mom and dad for giving him the fortitude to stick with the military.
“Gen. Daly mentioned my 33 years of service, however, it is actually almost 53 years,” Canada explained. “My father was military and I’ve been a part of the military family all my life (having been a military dependent for 18 years); it’s in my DNA.”
“It was 33 years ago when I discussed my decision to come into the military with my dad,” Canada said reflecting on that long ago conversation.
“He approved of my decision to join the Army, even though my dad was a Sailor,” Canada said. “The theme in our house was ‘Go Navy, beat Army.’” Canada said.
“He gave me advice that I will never forget; I’ve told my sons the same thing,” Canada said. “My dad said ‘Son, stick with it even when times get difficult and you want to quit.’ If he were here, he would be proud to know that I stuck with it.”
Canada also reflected on the chance encounter with a recruiter who visited the Canada household looking for his older brother, Larry Jr., known as Big Mike.
“If Mike had been home on the day the recruiter came knocking, I might not have joined the Army,” Canada joked. “Thanks for not being there, Mike!”
As Canada reflected on his career, he told the audience about a quote from Dr. Maya Angelou that struck him early in his life and follows him to this day.
“Maya Angelou once said ‘I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ”
“She had it right,” Canada stated. “During my career, I built relationships by treating everyone with dignity and respect, as well as understanding the importance of diversity. As an African American, who has been a Soldier for 33 years, I am proud of our Army’s efforts in acknowledging the importance of diversity. Our Army’s effort in diversity have truly made us Army Strong.”
“We still have work to be done, however, I am confident that our Army will continue to lead the way to change certain mindsets and foster a climate of inclusion and understanding.”
As Command Sgt. Maj. Canada ends his career at the pinnacle of the enlisted corps hierarchy, he knows that the Canada name is still being proudly displayed on an Army uniform, and carrying on the family’s rich tradition of service.
His oldest son, Spc. Devon Canada, is currently serving overseas with the Army Dental Command, taking care of Soldiers and their families
“Our family is a family of service.” said Canada, a Soldier for life.