Last week, in conjunction with the grand opening of the Abbey Centre, the Blackfalds and Area Historical Society unveiled a new monument commemorating Blackfalds’ veterans. The monument, constructed just outside the Abbey Centre, displays the names of 85 veterans who lived in Blackfalds or the surrounding area for at least some of their lifetime.
The monument resembles a curved concrete wall covered in a glass mosaic depicting poppies and birds. Also on the wall are four large plaques depicting the names of Blackfalds’ veterans. Space has been left on the last plaque to add the names of any more veterans as well.
“It’s beautiful,” said Judy Carleton, president of the Blackfalds and Area Historical Society. “It’s a very stunning visual piece of artwork.”
Carleton said the monument is uncommon because most veteran monuments were built in the 1940s and 50s. It is quite rare for a new one to be built.
Not only that, but Carleton said most monuments only name those who were killed during the wars, while the monument in Blackfalds names everyone from the area who served. Those who were killed in action are recognized on the monument with a cross next to their names, said Carleton. She added there are four individuals recognized on the monument who are still alive.
These qualities make the monument somewhat special, she added, especially considering this year is the 100-year anniversary of the First World War.
Carleton came up with the idea for the monument project after learning that funding was available for such initiatives through Veterans Affairs. She also said she felt it was something the community would get behind because previously Blackfalds had nowhere to host Remembrance Day services or any kind of public art that was historical in nature.
“It was quite a bit bigger than most projects we usually do but we are very happy with the result.”
In addition to spearheading the project to bring this new memorial to Blackfalds, Carleton also authored a book to go with it. She compiled the stories of the individuals immortalized on the memorial so that people would be able to remember more than just their names.
“Most people today if they read the names on (the monument) they wouldn’t know who they were or anything about them,” said Carleton.
It is important to have monuments such as this and recognize the sacrifice made by Canada’s veterans, she added, especially because they often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Carleton said that members of her generation and those younger will probably never fully understand what veterans sacrificed so Canadians could enjoy the freedoms and privileges we do today.
Those who spoke at the unveiling ceremony were of a similar mind. The ceremony was full of emotional speeches from politicians and veterans. Each individual who spoke made mention of the sacrifices made by veterans and the important of remembering.
Member of Parliament Blaine Calkins, Member of the Legislative Assembly Rod Fox and Mayor Melodie Stol all spoke at the unveiling. Calkins said that the only way for people to repay the country’s veterans is by remembering.
“We owe our veterans an enormous debt,” said Calkins. “A debt that can only be paid through remembrance and never forgetting the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women.”
Fox commented on how Canada would not be the same as it is today without the sacrifices made by veterans.
“In many ways, we are here because they were there – and we can never forget,” said Fox.
On the veteran side, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew C. Moffat and Royal Canadian Legion past President Hugh Greene were in attendance for the unveiling. Two of the surviving veterans named on the monument, Robert Evans and Ken Long (both from Lacombe), as well as several other members of the Legion were also in attendance. Moffat spoke of how the monument is more than just a symbol of remembrance, it is also a symbol of love.
“It emits a love almost beyond understanding,” said Moffat. “The love of 85 people who were prepared to give themselves for their country and their neighbours and compatriots. That sort of love is very special and very rare.”
After the speeches, the monument was unveiled and those in attendance paid their respects with a moment of silence. Wreathes and poppies were then laid at the monument at the close of the ceremony.