Padre Derrick Lee, Reserve Chaplain at 4 Wing – Photo by Mike Marshall / The Courier News
There’s a fresh spiritual face around CFB Cold Lake, with an interesting story on just how he came to be here.
Padre Derrick Lee is the new Reserve Chaplain at 4 Wing. This isn’t Lee’s first foray into the military, having previously served as a Military Police officer.
“When I was in High School I was interested in law enforcement,” explains Lee. “I had a friend who had thoughts of joining the military and after doing my research, I found out I could be a Reserve Military Police officer. That was February of 1999.”
“I liked the military, my time as an MP was very formative for me and taught me things about myself and what my body was capable of.”
Lee decided to move to a career in broadcasting, eventually working as a producer, as well as getting more involved with his church.
“I was working at three radio stations in Edmonton and I felt I needed some time off in my life, something had to give so I left my reserve position in 2006, thinking I would never be back.”
After a few years in radio, Lee was again inspired to make a career change, this time to something a little more action-packed and active.
“I wanted to get out, be active, and not be stuck in an office. I heard a sermon one day about living an adventurous life and decided to start working in forestry. Eventually, I made my way into wildland firefighting.”
Lee spent several seasons fighting fires in Alberta, including times he spent repelling from helicopters into burning areas.
“After a few years of that, I realized I was missing something in my life and it’s called ‘stability’, which many of us will take for granted. I lived in a suitcase for three years, living an adventure, but I missed a stable existence and decided it was time to re-evaluate and reset.”
Lee then got his degree in Religion and Theology. After meeting his wife in 2013 (and briefly working as a tow truck operator), he says he began to think about a career in the ministry.
“I found myself (as a tow truck operator) sitting with people in crisis. Sometimes they had just been in an accident and they were sitting with me in the truck and I would help them regulate themselves and process what was happening. There was something to that, at the time I didn’t connect it, that it was good and what I liked to do.”
Lee began seminary studies and attended a missionary work trade show, where he eventually talked to representatives from the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service. He worked in Edmonton and later made the move to Bonnyville and eventually 4 Wing based on suggestions from his management team
“I was talking with a manager and questioning what I should do and they said ‘Someone will be retiring in Bonnyville soon’. I was hesitant to go because it was a three-day-a-week job, but she said ‘Maybe you’ll find something else in the area’. Well, there’s a large Royal Canadian Air Force base in Cold Lake so I cold-called the Duty Chaplain and told them I’d be moving up and the Wing Chaplain mentioned they were looking for a Reserve Chaplain. The next day I got a phone call from Ottawa.”
Lee’s first official day at 4 Wing came on March 15th, 2022. Before that, he had been a familiar face at St. Marks Chapel, preaching at several services.
When Lee isn’t wearing his uniform at 4 Wing, he works as a Chaplain at the Bonnyville Healthcare Centre.
“It’s rare to have both a hospital and military Chaplain. I believe there are two others than myself, but I’ve found it’s really served me to have a foot in both areas and help people to understand both contexts.”
He lives with his wife and four young children. Padre Lee can be found at the Chaplain’s Office on Mondays and Wednesdays.