It's been a long time since Junior Gosse joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in Corner Brook as a young infantryman in the reserves, but he's never forgotten his roots.
His years of service with the Canadian Forces culminated in a proud moment in April as the retired soldier was flag-bearer for Canada at the Invictus Games in the Netherlands.
Gosse, originally from the town of Massey Drive, recently returned from competing in the international athletic competition for serving and retired soldiers who are wounded, injured or sick.
"The thing about competing in these Games is that it's not about winning. Just being there and being part of it is what counts," said Gosse. "Every time there was an event that finished, there was a presentation of gold, silver, and bronze medals. And that was the last thing you heard about it. So there was no counts, no scoreboards."
Career took a toll
Gosse's military career took him to postings throughout Canada and to Iran and Somalia. Notably, in November 1979, Gosse was one of the military police officers on security detail at the Canadian embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran who assisted with the rescue of six diplomats during the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Iran.
Gosse, now 66, said his 28-year career in the Canadian Forces left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries sustained while serving in the military that, although not visible, he has had to live with through the years.
"Before I started this, I was struggling. I required medical intervention for my physical and mental health," said Gosse.
"The Invictus Games are there for you to become involved in sport and help you in your recovery. And it certainly did that, and far exceeded my expectations of what it could do for me.… It's worked wonders for me."
Delayed by COVID
Gosse decided to put his name forward to compete after watching previous Invictus Games on television, even though he wasn't actively involved in any particular sport at the time. Gosse was selected in 2019 to attend but, due to the pandemic, the Games were postponed in 2020 and 2021.
"For myself and my teammates, it was quite an uphill battle to find a training time or a place to do any training," said Gosse. "It took a toll on our teammates."
Gosse said it was hard waiting for their turn to compete. Some of the team originally picked to go were no longer healthy enough to do so, and one of Gosse's teammates had died in the intervening years.
Honoured to carry flag
Gosse said one memorable moment from the Invictus Games was getting to carry the Canadian flag for Team Canada at the opening ceremonies.
"To be able to carry the flag into a ceremony in Holland, where 77 years ago fellow veterans liberated Holland, [it's] an experience I can't describe, hard to put in words," said Gosse.
Gosse competed in wheelchair basketball and cycling, but he had a setback in the cycling competition that could have left him feeling defeated. Gosse's back tire blew out on his bicycle as he rounded a corner in the qualifier, but he didn'tt let that stop him, choosing instead to complete the remaining 2½-kilometre distance on foot, running in cycling shoes. Gosse's son, Ryan, met him as he neared the final corner and ran with him to the finish.
"There was long applause and loud cheers for me to get over the finish line," said Gosse.
Son and fan
Ryan Gosse said being at the Games as a spectator along with his mother was inspiring.
"For the amount of emotions that went into it for the competitors, I think it was equally as emotional for the friends and family that were supporting them," said Ryan Gosse.
Even growing up in a military family, with both his mother and father having served and his brother currently serving, Ryan Gosse said he didn't fully understand the bond that members of the military share until he saw them together at the Games.
"For somebody that's a civilian, it certainly sheds a lot of light on the things that the armed forces family has to go through on a daily basis," said Ryan Gosse.
Once in a lifetime
Being a part of the Invictus Games was an experience that Junior Gosse said he finds difficult to put into words.
He said it's a unique camaraderie that comes from knowing that all participants share the experience of being injured while serving their countries.
And, since current and retired soldiers from Canada attend an Invictus Games only once, Gosse said, it's a special memory he will treasure for the rest of his life.
"The experience was so inspiring and heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time," said Gosse. "It's one of the best things I was ever involved in."