‘We will re­mem­ber them’

The Glengarry News - - News - BY MAR­GARET CALDBICK News Staff

Cer­e­mo­ni­ously and with great dig­nity, and with hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered, the new LAV III mon­u­ment next to the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion in Lan­caster was un­veiled Sun­day.

The LAV III in­fantry ve­hi­cle, the light-ar­moured troop car­rier used by the Cana­dian Armed Forces dur­ing their en­gage­ments in Afghanista­n, is among 22 such mon­u­ments so far un­veiled as part of the pro­gram to cre­ate 250 war memo­ri­als across Canada.

The ve­hi­cle is ded­i­cated to the 40,000 Cana­dian Armed Forces who served and the 162 Cana­di­ans who lost their lives dur­ing the con­flict in Afghanista­n. Nearby on the site, a stone mon­u­ment bears a plaque hon­our­ing Lan­caster na­tive Sgt. Marc Léger who was among three Cana­dian soldiers killed April 18, 2002 by friendly fire when an Amer­i­can fighter jet dropped a laser-guided 225-kilo­gram bomb on the soldiers dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise near Kan­da­har.

Sgt. Léger’s par­ents, Richard and Claire, with fam­ily mem­bers at their side, un­veiled the plaque which reads: This Place of Re­mem­brance is ded­i­cated to a Na­tive Son of Lan­caster, SGT Marc D. Léger, 3rd Bat­tal­ion PPCLI, killed in Afghanista­n - April 2002. “We Will Re­mem­ber Them.”

“My greatest fear was that he would be for­got­ten,’’ said Claire Léger, her voice break­ing with emo­tion as she ex­pressed the Léger fam­ily’s grat­i­tude. In the au­di­ence were mem­bers of the Princess Pa­tri­cia's Cana­dian Light In­fantry, the unit in which her son served.

Mrs. Léger de­scribed the fam­ily’s deep Lan­caster roots stem­ming back to the 1940s when Marc’s great-grand­par­ents and grand­par­ents set­tled there, and how she and her hus­band also chose Lan­caster to raise their fam­ily.

She quoted the African proverb, “It takes a vil­lage to raise a child,” thank­ing “the out­stand­ing mem­bers of the Lan­caster Le­gion,” South Glen­garry and other con­trib­u­tors for per­ma­nently memo­ri­al­iz­ing her son with “this im­pres­sive mon­u­ment and plaque.”

“It must have been des­tiny that Marc grew up on Queen Street where we could see this site from our house, and like­wise these are the fields where he would play base­ball, broom­ball and hockey, build­ing strong limbs for the soldier he would be­come,” said Mrs. Léger.

The cer­e­mony’s Ser­vice of Re­mem­brance and call to wor­ship with Rev­erend Lois Gaudet and two min­utes of si­lence were fol­lowed by an ex­cit­ing sur­prise. In the dis­tance, peo­ple heard the drone of an air­craft and sud­denly over­head ap­peared an RCAF Her­cules C30J, the four-en- gine tur­bo­prop mil­i­tary trans­port Canada de­ployed to Afghanista­n. The pi­lot thrilled the au­di­ence by per­form­ing four fly­bys from var­i­ous di­rec­tions in­clud­ing a steep bank di­rectly over­head.

Start­ing the pro­gram

When the LAV III pro­gram was first an­nounced, Pierre Roy, pres­i­dent of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, Lan­caster Branch No. 544, seized on the project. But first, he met with Claire and Richard Léger at the pro­posed site to ask for per­mis­sion to ded­i­cate the site and mon­u­ment to their son. With their bless­ing, Mr. Roy be­gan plan­ning the project to trans­form the lot into the pris­tine and gra­cious park-like mon­u­ment.

It was an am­bi­tious en­deav­our, al­most baf­fling in its many chal­lenges, but Mr. Roy, a re­tired team leader for in­fras­truc­ture with De­fence Con­struc­tion Canada, who was project man­ager for the Lan­caster Le­gion’s ad­di­tion project in 2017, knew where to start.

The house lot ad­ja­cent to the Le­gion was pur­chased by the Town­ship of South Glen­garry. Then the aban­doned house on the site was de­mol­ished and the en­gi­neer­ing and site prepa­ra­tion steps be­gan.

Mr. Roy ex­plained that to qual­ify for a LAV III Mon­u­ment, a com­mu­nity had to meet an ap­proval cri­te­ria. The com­mu­nity “had to have ties to Afghanista­n, the Cana­dian Armed Forces and sac­ri­fice.”

“In my opin­ion I believe we gave the Com­mu­nity Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee an easy job of it,” he said. “Our com­mu­nity’s con­tri­bu­tion to this war in­cluded 28 Glens who served with reg­u­lar force com­bat units earn­ing two com­men­da­tion medals and one Mil­i­tary Valour Medal. Many more Glen­gar­ri­ans served in other reg­u­lar mil­i­tary units from across our coun­try. Sadly 162 Cana­di­ans in­clud­ing a na­tive son, Marc Léger, from this vil­lage were killed in Afghanista­n.”

The cer­e­mony in­cluded a wreath lay­ing in hon­our of all Cana­dian Armed Forces per­son­nel who served and in Re­mem­brance of the 162 who were killed in Afghanista­n.

Lay­ing wreaths rep­re­sent­ing their own Armed Forces branches were Hon Col Bob Chekan, Lt. Col. Christo­pher Horner and CWO Mary Mac­Don­ald of the RCAF, Lt. (N) David Barkley of the RCN, and Lt. Col. Christo­pher French and Mas­ter Cpl. Jenna Lafave of the Army’s SD&G High­landers.

Cpl. Jenna Lafave is the daugh­ter of Brent Lafave, the former com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the SD&G High­landers, and com­pleted one mis­sion in Afghanista­n. Cpl. Lafave rep­re­sented the women of the Cana­dian Armed Forces who served in com­pleted mis­sions in Afghanista­n.

Mr. Roy thanked the RCL Branch 544 Ex­ec­u­tive, coun­cil and town­ship staff, in­clud­ing in­fras­truc­ture man­ager Ewen Mac­Don­ald, United Coun­ties Coun­cil, and the many in­di­vid­u­als, groups and busi­nesses who en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported the project, rais­ing over $20,000 for the project.

“We should take no plea­sure from the cre­ation of mon­u­ments to war,” said Mr. Roy. “But we take pride and have great re­spect for the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice that the men and women from our lit­tle cor­ner of Canada have contribute­d faith­fully and with hon­our when called upon for over two cen­turies.”

MAR­GARET CALDBICK PHOTOS

RE­MEM­BRANCE: Bot­tom left: Cpl. Jenna Lafave of the SD&G High­landers and Lieu­tenant Colonel Christo­pher French, Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of the SD&G High­landers, ap­proach the LAV III mon­u­ment to lay a wreath. Right: Pierre Roy, Pres­i­dent of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, Lan­caster Branch No. 544, ad­dresses at­ten­dees at the un­veil­ing of the LAV III mon­u­ment.

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