“We truly become a culmination of all our experiences.”
Those are the words of Staff Sergeant Grant Burningham, head of the Community Response Unit at 55 Division.
And it could very well explain why the 27-year Toronto Police veteran is getting on a plane in May and going to Afghanistan as part of a training mission in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), a mission that will aim to help the Afghan people institute better policing practices in their country in order to maintain peace.
“I saw this as a unique and great opportunity to do something that could potentially be great. We go through life, and how often do we have a chance to do something of this magnitude? It’s an opportunity to give back,” explained Burningham.
Prior to his deployment, he will undergo a two-stage training process. The first is with Toronto Police Services and the second will be in Ottawa with the RCMP.
Burningham had been interested in the military at a younger age and, although this is not a military mission, it does come close to it.
“Our Canadian Forces are second to none around the world. They served with distinction, they served with honour, and a lot of them made a sacrifice for the betterment of a nation,” he said.
A father of two boys, Burningham explained the difficulties in leaving family and friends for an extended period of time.
“I’m going to miss my wife and my two teenage boys,” he said, emotion in his voice.
His youngest son Royce, 14, isn’t too thrilled about having his dad go overseas and jokingly sings Cats in the Cradle around the house.
His oldest boy Reed, 16, thinks “it’s pretty cool, but he has said to me that he’s going to miss me,” said Burningham.
Burningham is married to wife Leigh, and he will celebrate their 21st anniversary in June in Kabul.
“Not sure how the flowers will hold up from Kabul,” he joked.
He will also be missed at 55 Division.
“Staff Sergeant Burningham is an outstanding individual and we’ll miss him here at 55,” said Superintendent Frank Bergen. “He has done a remarkable job here and he is well suited for such a great mission. He always gives 100 per cent to the job so I’m sure he’ll excel overseas.”
Because of his decision to go on this mission, officers at 55 Division have expressed an interest in doing something similar.
“I’m hoping that at the end of the mission I’m going to look back and see that the role I had has had a small part in helping the Afghan people resume control and autonomy for their own country. I’m hoping that we’ve represented the people of Canada and the police force in a positive light,” he said.
The trip will surely have its impact on the seasoned sergeant as well.
“I think it’s going to open my eyes as to how great a country we have here. I already realize that, but I think I’ll have a greater appreciation for what we have here,” he said.
This trip will also mark the end of Burningham’s role at 55 Division as the CRU’s Staff Sergeant. Detective Sergeant Adrienne Johnstone will be taking over the role after his departure.
“I’m going to miss my friends and family tremendously,” Burningham concluded.
The staff at Beach Metro News want to wish Burningham well on this endeavour and hope for a safe return.