Veterans Memorial Gardens
This multi function facility may only be .5 of an acre but it will be packed with the military history of Northwestern Alberta.
We have struggled to find a simple descriptor for the project we have created that allows people to understand it's purposes and the scope and range of topics that this project covers.
While not perfect - "Veterans Memorial Gardens & Interpretive Centre" covers what we do and offer through this project, the best.
The military history of Northwestern Alberta is broken out into themed clusters of interpretive panels.
Filled with historical informational panels, service panels and murals the walkways delineate the information clusters.
Add in trees, shrubs, flowers, fruit trees, murals and benches to beautify the Interpretive Centre and Veterans Memorial Gardens comes to life.
Add in the Canadian Legion of Riders Learning Centre and we have a place that is purposefully built for school field trips.
The CLR Learning Centre will not only house our programs during the school year, but it will also act as a meeting facility.
Set up for caterers to serve the building, the facility will be rented out to small groups for intimate weddings, anniversaries and other small functions of 80 and under.
The building has 2 wheelchair accessible bathrooms and a small office/warming kitchen (this is not a commercial kitchen).
It will have a recording system that will allow ceremonies to be recorded for posterity and if we can find the right service provider for Internet, we will have the ability to livestream ceremonies and events.
Imagine, our Indigenous Veterans Day Ceremony, or your wedding or retirement event being broadcast on the internet for family and friends who can not attend, to see and feel like they are part of the action because they are seeing you in real time!
Rendering of the front of our building with the barn doors closed
Rendering of the front of our building with the barn doors open
There is one cluster dedicated to the Indigenous Soldiers of our region.
Our goal is to have Indigenous Carver Randy Gauthier create for us a miniature of the Aboriginal War Monument for the center of this cluster of service and historical information panels.
That we have been able to ascertain, we had 8 Cree Indigenous Soldiers from our region that were killed in action and close to 60 others who served and became veterans.
Another cluster is dedicated to the Metis Soldiers of our region. In the middle of this cluster of service and historical information panels we intend to have Randy Gauthier carve for us a miniature of the centerpiece of the Batoche Memorial. We know of 5 Metis Soldiers from our region who were Killed in Action.
Code Talkers like Charles "Checker" Tompkins of Grouard Alberta did much to shorten World War Two.
Their contributions saved countless lives.
The Army, Navy & Airforce Veterans in Canada have subdivided and donated the land the Gardens, Interpretive & Learning Centres are being built on. The Oldest Veterans Support Association in Canada, the ANAVETS organization has had a rich history in the Northwest of Alberta. There will be a commemorative plaque dedicated to them and their service and donation .
The Royal Canadian Legion has been at the centre of care and support for veterans and their families for decades. There will be a small monument thanking the Legions who have supported our Afghanistan War Monument and other aspects of our gardens.
The cluster that is dedicated to The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, D Company, Army Training Base 132 Grande Prairie will tell the stories of 24 regional "Eddies" who were Killed in Action in World War II and you will learn of how the 49th Battalion became the Loyal Edmonton regiment.
The history of the Army Training Base 32 Grande Prairie will also be explored.
From the County of Grande Prairie Website:
1940. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment begins a recruitment drive at Grande Prairie. By the end of the year, 4,773 recruits have been signed up.
1940. A Military Training Center is constructed on the south side of Grande Prairie.
1941. A separate unit of the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment called D Company is established in Grande Prairie. The Commander is Delmer Pratt.
Photo below: D. Coy 49th Grande Prairie Loyal Edmonton Regiment from the South Peace Archives
D Coy 49th (Reserve) Grande Prairie Loyal Edmonton Regiment at Sarcee Camp from July 22-Aug 6, 1944. This regiment contained mostly soldiers from Valhalla and Grande Prairie. They are, back row, left to right: J.H. Velve, M. Vatne, S. Rohne, J. Sonstvedt, P.G. Loberg, O. Klettke, Sgt. A. Flannigan, A.G. Howes, R.S. Wigmore, W. Duncan. Third row: G. Halverson, P.M. Melhus, O. Homme, G. Tosczak, A. Westad, A.J. Dumbeck, R.G. Miller, H.C. Pearson, M. Horneland, R.L.V. Reed, D. Dryer. Second row: F. Field, K. Knutson, E. Blais, E. Buchholdt, A. Dolemo, G.A. Duncan, M.E. Swanson, D.E. Guittard, T.K. Leslie, R. Wagner, A. Krantz, Braathen, S. Front row: D.A. Miller, L/Cpl. P.D. Wright, Cpl D.O. Hanson, Cpl. W. Spicer, Sgt. D.R. Cooke, CSM L.V. Cobb, Capt A.J. Mantle, CSM T.E. Booker, Sgt J.C. Leitgeb, CPL H.J. Shields, J. A. Swanson, F. Knutson, and A. Nelson.
The Cadets have a long and storied history in our region with the Army, Air and Sea Cadets all represented.
Our region has produced top shooters and top cadets because of the leadership they have been blessed to have.
The Animals of War display cluster will feature sculptures of the various animals and stories of the roles they played in the various wars.
There will be stories of the various mascots of the Canadian Forces like the following story about "Lestock," the Mascot of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.
On 30 May 1915, during a train stop in Lestock Saskatchewan, a well-wisher gave the 49th Battalion a coyote pup. The Regiment was en route to England and they adopted the pup as their unit's mascot naming it "Lestock." after the town he came from.
"Lestock" was turned over to a London zoo before the 49th went into combat. To this day, Lestock's face appears in the centre of the unit badge.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have played an active role in military skirmishes and wars in the defence of Canada since the North-West Rebellion.
The R.C.M.P of our region have gone through the deaths of two killed in action officers. Their stories will be told in the R.C.M.P. cluster.
The Soldiers of Suicide Cluster will address the issue of PTSD and other operational stress injuries in a tender and considerate way. The stigma can not be allowed to go unaddressed.
For some soldiers, the war doesn't end when they get home. The nightmares, terrors and other symptoms that take hold, wreaking havoc in their lives and those of the people who love them become unbearable.
Lise Charron was the champion of the Soldiers of Suicide Monument erected at Beechwood National Military Cemetery in Ottawa. A Member of the Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Units (The C.A.V.), Lise worked tirelessly to help families of soldiers who died by suicide find some peace and healing.
Lise died of Cancer in 2017.
Thanks to the team over at Speedpro Grande Prairie and the artist, Scott Taylor (EspritdeCorps Magazine) and the Estate of Mr. E. Zuber for their permission to reprint their art for our Interpretive Centre.
Thank you to the Canadian War Museum for their efforts in putting us together with the artists/families. The resulting mural is a fitting tribute to the 2nd Battalion of the PPCLI and their service in Korea.