They served with honour for our freedom. Veterans. As members of a community and by extension, District of Algoma, there are hundreds upon hundreds of stories of heartbreak and heroism, life and death. Men and women who served our great country, Canada in all sorts of geographies, times in history, peace time, war time, international crisis response time. Veterans are a special breed. Throughout history, Canada has consistently been recognized in international circles and diplomatic corps, as having one of the most highly trained and skilled military personnel in the world. When Canada’s military is called to duty, those in the armed services elevate their patriotism to Queen and country. They serve. A call to action. Duty. Valour.
Going back to The Colonies & forward to Confederation in 1867, Canada’s veterans have mapped lives that include a life of duty to country and service. For many, the ultimate sacrifice would bring them home.
In Sault Ste. Marie & District, the community has been elevated and distinguished through the honour and sacrifice of individuals who hailed from here. Families, friends, colleagues, and a grief stricken community serve as a reminder to us all, that a military life, a life fraught with peril and sacrifice, is a life we etch into the story of our own community.
“Lest We Forget”
In a reverential tone, Bruce Cooke, G.M. Arthur’s Funeral Home shared a specific time when overwhelming loss in a country called Afghanistan dealt a mighty blow to families in Sault Ste. Marie. “It was deeply moving to support the repatriation of Sgt John Wayne Faught (2010)and Master Corporal Scott Vernelli (2009). Deeply humbling and emotional. To bring our boys home. We were honoured to do this.”
Arthurs Funeral Home is playing an important role in the realization of a vision. The first Veterans Commemorative Brunch at Grand Gardens North had a very good turnout for the fundraising event. “Getting the Veterans Monument built is very close to our hearts. The Royal Canadian Legion, the RCMP. All of our military families.” shared Bruce Cooke. “Supporting the process and inviting community to get involved is very important to us.”
The process has been a wheel in motion for some time now. As these things go, they start with an idea from Lieutenant Colonel Clyde Healey (Ret’d) having conversations with people in military circles. Clyde reflected on some of the journey to this point. “In August 2014,Sault Ste. Marie City Council approved, in principle, the project and the site. To get to the point where city council could be shown a vision,(for the Monument) several people shared their gifts and talents, without being compensated (financially). Two individuals involved with design and execution are Chris Tossell, Architect, Ernst Krepps, Environmental Landscape Architect. The project is estimated to cost $800,000. When I first took this idea to Chris Tossell, and asked if he could help, he readily agreed. He said he would take this to a colleague. The colleague turned out to be Ernst Krepps who came up with a design.”
In the early days of the idea germination process, Allan Fell (Air Force Association) suggested that the Air Force monument, housed at the airport be moved downtown to make it easier for veterans who wish to attend events like ‘The Battle of Britain’.
” We approached Joe Fratesi, CAO for the City (Sault STe. Marie). He was fully supportive of the idea, and showed us a spot, right along the boardwalk near City Hall where this monument could find a home. Joe thought that the Monument was an excellent idea for the city.”
The City of Sault Ste. Marie approved a location adjacent to the mariner’s compass landscape feature across from the Civic Centre on the waterfront.
Clyde Healey went on to say “Steve Butland came up with the idea to include The Coat of Arms from the Post Office building on Queen St. The Coat of Arms is a work of art. Designed and molded by a master craftsman”. A perfect piece of canadian history shared from one historical space, to find new life as part of a Historical Memorial.
The Veterans Commemorative Monument is gaining steam. “Phil Miller is our historian. Art Osborn is helping us with Marketing. We have 3 legal people helping with grant writing, including (Ret)Judge Pat Fitzgerald, Bruce Noble and Mike O’Neil.” adding “Bruce Harten is our treasurer. There are representatives from City Hall including Nick Apostle and Steve Butland.” The Veterans Commemorative Monument is “represented by The Royal Canadian Legion, Navy, Army, Air Force, First Nations” shared Clyde “R.J. Dalton is helping us with our brothers and sisters in The First Nations.”
There are a number of ways for folks to become involved in supporting the Monument. Fundraising events, business and community sponsorships, financial gifts. A person can purchase a ‘brick’ to recognize and honour a service member, which will be engraved and inset in the Monument’s Plaza Walk. A website, thosewhoserved.ca will help you navigate the project. A project worthy of a community’s collective mindfulness. The Veterans Commemorative Monument. They served with honour for our freedom. We shall not forget.