The Lacombe Afghanistan Memorial was officially unveiled and dedicated last week in a moving ceremony.
Officials, local politicians and members of the public gathered at Fairview Cemetery Veteran’s Field of Honour for the LAVIII memorial dedication on Saturday afternoon.
“This project has been underway for a little over 18 months now, and I’m delighted to welcome all of you to the City of Lacombe for the unveiling of the memorial here today,” said Mayor Steve Christie.
It was due to the efforts of the federal government, the province, the City of Lacombe along with the Royal Canadian Legion and many Lacombe citizens, that the realization of having the monument – a Canadian Light Armour Vehicle III (LAVIII) – in the local cemetery came to be. The memorial pays tribute to the 40,000 Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan and the 162 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in service to their country.
The last soldier who lost his life in Afghanistan was Lacombe resident Master Cpl. Byron Greff, who served in the Third Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins said, “Every once in while, when evil rears its head around the world, and it has real consequences for the people in it – we have to send our men and women. And there are consequences for those families here at home. Make no mistake – members of parliament know this very well,” he said, before personally thanking members of the Greff family for being at the dedication ceremony.
“Byron grew up in Lacombe and he went to school here,” said Calkins. “He met (his wife) Lindsay in Edmonton after completing his basic training. Byron was a well-respected soldier with the Princess Patricia’s. He was also a devoted husband and father.
“My hope is that this monument leaves a lasting heartfelt impression for our troops and the families it’s dedicated to. I hope it leaves a lasting memory for our community that comes to view it.”
Ron Orr, MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, said what an absolute privilege it is to have the memorial here in Lacombe.
“I especially want to thank our MP Blaine Calkins because this would not have happened without his leadership. It was his vision and his work that called together the committee in the first place to see this through. So thank you to Blaine and your committee for what you have done to make this a reality,” he said.
Orr said that one of the things that is remembered in this monument is honouring 40,000 Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
Susan Churchill, president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch #79, said that freedom comes from those who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that we as a country have the rights and freedoms to make our own choices.
“The conflict in Afghanistan has been Canada’s longest conflict, and most significant engagement since our involvement in the Korean War,” she said. “The peace and comforts that we enjoy have come at a price of which 162 men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. This affects us here in Lacombe because Master Corporal Byron Greff – the last Canadian soldier killed in action – was from our very own City.
Lacombe native Bryce Talsma joined the Canadian forces in 2006 as a direct entry officer. In 2008, he completed training as an infantry officer and was signed to the First Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, said Calkins.
“In September of 2009 until April of 2010, he had the distinction and honour of commanding a mechanized infantry platoon in southern Afghanistan in the harshest environments he had every seen, with pride – working with the Canadian troops for a more free, and peaceful Afghanistan. Bryce played an important role in our fundraising efforts when he volunteered to come out and talk to our community about the LAVIII earlier this year.”
Talsma said having his own community supported the establishing of the monument in Lacombe was extremely meaningful.
“Today we are unveiling this Light Armoured vehicle – a symbol for some of violence and destruction – a symbol of war. For those who have served and fought in Afghanistan, and for me, it became a symbol of hope and of security. A symbol of Canada,” he said.