Joseph Nonato will become the first Filipino Canadian commanding officer of one of Canada’s oldest and largest regiments, the Royal Regiment of Canada. As a lieutenant-colonel, he will be taking the post after Colonel Tom Payne during a ceremony at Fort York Armoury on Sunday.
Like most families, kids look up to the elders they are most closest to and aspire to grow up just like them. For Joseph, he grew up with the military background surrounding him as his father, uncles, and cousins kept telling him of the times they were serving in the Philippine army.
Hearing about his relatives’ experiences in the military, an inspired Joseph decided to join the cadet program during his high school days in Cardinal Leger. According to Joseph, it was the sense of adventure and patriotism, in addition to his relatives’ background, that drove him to pursue a career in the military. After high school, Joseph was fortunate to be accepted in the Royal Military College in Kingston. Despite being a very competitive school with few minorities, Joseph was able to succeed and graduate.
“We were so proud of him when he graduated from the military college because he worked so hard and accomplished what he always wanted to accomplish,” said Joseph’s father, Rod. Rod was a marine officer in the Philippines until 1971 when he migrated to Canada.
It is in Canada where Rod met his wife Nancy and it was not in their initial plans to stay in Canada for good. “Nancy and I only planned to stay in Canada for two years just for the experience but we thought Canada would be the best place to raise a family. All our four children went to university . . . We are already very proud of them,” said Rod.
After Jospeh graduated from military college, he didn’t directly get deployed but instead served as a primary reservist while he worked in Scotia Bank and then as a school teacher. “When you are in reserve, you do a lot of things. If you don’t deploy, it is like practicing for hockey and you never play. And you don’t want to lead other troops without the (front line) experience yourself. It is a credibility thing to me,” said Joseph.
Joseph finally got his chance to be in the frontlines in 2008 when he applied for the mission in Afghanistan. As the violence continued, Joseph decided to help with the Canada’s rebuilding effort in Afghanistan. After his stint in Afghanistan, he was then deployed in South Sudan in 2012. Joseph was also able to visit the Philippines twice while on break from his tour in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, they saw me in Canadian (military) uniform. They just stopped what they were doing and looked at me. It’s a look of pride. They have this dream to go to a new land. The dream is not for themselves, but for their children,” said Joseph. “I was just happy to be a major, but (being a commanding officer) is a big deal. It is a dream fulfilled for many people,” he added. As a son of an immigrant, leaving his mark in his new homeland was a dream come true as it brings much honor to his family and native country.
Original article appeared on thestar.com.