When Warrant Officer Charlene Arsenault got invited to Ottawa for the 2017 Canadian Armed Forces Sports Award Ceremony, she knew just who she wanted to bring as her guest.
She had her Mom, Evelyn Arsenault from Tignish, in attendance as she was inducted into the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Honour Roll for outstanding accomplishments as a multi-sport athlete.
Her mother, said the 31-year armed forces veteran, has always been her biggest fan and supporter, both during and prior to her military career. She said she would not have accomplished as much as she has in her military career and sports if it were not for the support of her whole family, which consisted of eight brothers and seven sisters.
“I am proud to be in the military and I wear my uniform with pride,” added Arsenault who noted the CAF “is very big on fitness for their troops.” She said the Forces have been very supportive to her throughout her career.
She said it was fitting that her sister, Noreen Gavin, accompanied “Mudder,” the nickname she has for her mother, to the Ottawa ceremony, as it was Noreen who usually filled in as driver when Mudder could not get her to games and practices growing up in Tignish.
Arsenault scheduled a trip home to Tignish for Remembrance Day where she laid a wreath in memory of her uncle.
Evelyn Arsenault was in attendance for three of her daughter’s military sports nationals including a hockey nationals in Halifax where WO Arsenault was part of the gold medal team, a game MVP and a tournament all-star.
Earlier this year Evelyn Arsenault received a rare civilian invitation to attend a sports breakfast where Canadian women’s hockey star, Haley Wickenheiser was the guest speaker. That was a special treat for mother and daughter, as WO Arsenault is sometimes referred to as the Haley Wickenheiser of female military hockey.
Hockey, said Arsenault, was her main sport growing up. Coming from a large family, they had their own outdoor rink and put it to use, and she did get to compete against Wickenheiser at hockey nationals before joining the Forces.
By the time she attended her first CAF Hockey Nationals – she has attended 15 since 2000, 11 of them as captain - she had already been to nationals in fast pitch and broomball. Since 2014 she has also been competing in CAF half-marathons and marathons. She also competes in annual mini triathlons on base. It was her late brother, Robert, she said, who encouraged her to run competitively, and she put his picture on her race bib the first time she competed. “I always carry him with me,” she said.
In Ottawa last May Arsenault was a member of the first Canadian team to earn a medal – bronze - at the World Marathon Championship. Arsenault also won gold for nationals in that same event.
In the military, she’s been on a peacekeeping tour to Germany, humanitarian service in Nicaragua and Colombia and has served in many parts of Canada.
WO Arsenault’s nomination for the Sports Honour Roll notes her passion and determination for team sports has not waned.
She is described as a leader who promotes hard work, team cohesiveness and goals setting.
“WO Arsenault has used sports as a conduit to positively influence so many people young and old over the past 30 years,” reads her nomination, in part. “She exemplifies why sports is such an important part of the military.”