For Second Lieutenant Derek Leung, combining studies and soldiering equals success

Article / May 10, 2019 / Project number: 19-0018

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By Corporal Cody Misner, 31 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions that Canadians of Asian heritage have made, and continue to make, to the growth and prosperity of Canada.

London, Ontario — As a Canadian Army (CA) Reservist, Second Lieutenant Derek Leung lives in two very different worlds.

He is a full-time Honours Criminology student at Western University in London, Ontario; but when he’s not studying, he’s an Acting Troop Leader with 31 Canadian Brigade Group’s 1st Hussars, a CA Reserve Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.

2Lt Leung’s parents raised him to always strive for excellence and with a firm reverence to their Chinese heritage. He was told stories about his family’s life in China as well as Chinese folklore. That upbringing prepared him well for the dual, but aligned, paths he has chosen, as has the Army Reserve.

“The Army has helped build my confidence as well as my communication skills which are vital in my senior classes,” said 2Lt Leung.

“The Army has also offered me a steady stream of income throughout the school year, which turns into a full-time job in the summer. The education reimbursement is also extremely helpful to pay for tuition as well as school books.”

His parents came to Canada in their early 20s, themselves looking to navigate their own paths in a new land of opportunity. His father came to attend university, and his mother to find work.

Despite now being his biggest supporters, his parents weren’t always keen on him joining the military.

“My family was not very supportive of me wanting to join at first,” the young officer said. “But once they saw the opportunities it would provide, they were less concerned.”

Currently working his way through his last semester of an Honours degree, 2Lt Leung says he has been able to build vital skills in the Army Reserve that assist him in his studies, as well as provide financial support.

This continuous cycle of work and school hasn’t come without its challenges though, but these challenges are ones that 2Lt Leung happily tackles, head on, with the friends he has made along the way right by his side.

“The best thing about my job is the discipline it has taught me as well as the bonds I have built with the people I have trained with,” he said. “I still talk to most of the people that I trained with, and even some who trained me.”

Even though the courses can be very difficult at times, “I wouldn’t have asked for different staff or course mates. These bonds that I have built with people through the Army are incomparable to anything in the civilian world.”

2Lt Leung joined the Army Reserve in 2017 after meeting a soldier taking part in the Regular Officer Training Plan. He was well-prepared for the strict and organized nature of military training; but it was the focus on teamwork in the military compared to the civilian world that was a bit of a surprise.

“It’s like the cliché, ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link,’ but that’s the best way to put it. If there are weaker members in your section or course, your staff will identify them and see how you as a course mate can help them get through it successfully,” noted 2Lt Leung. “It’s a perfect way to teach new recruits to never give up on someone and to never leave them behind.”

Being the first member of his family to ever serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, 2Lt Leung is preparing for his Armoured Reconnaissance Troop Leader course – Army Reservists are guaranteed full-time summer employment during their first four years – while also wrapping up his full-time schooling before he leaves.

He aims to have a lengthy career in law enforcement as well as in the military; as both are places where he can use the training and skills he has developed.

While the road has often been uphill for 2Lt Leung, he has managed to strike a balance – key to many ancient Chinese philosophies – between schooling, family and service, which has allowed him to grow personally and professionally into a young leader with a promising path ahead.

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