The LAV III monument project has been in the works for seven years
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by Stephen Dafoe
Current and veteran members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the general public came out Sunday, Oct. 2, for the grand opening ceremony of the Rotary Club of Morinville-Sturgeon’s Light Armoured Vehicle III (LAV III) Military Monument.
The monument, located just west of the parking lot at the Morinville Leisure Centre, is one of only five such LAV III monuments in the province and the only one in the Edmonton area.
The project began in 2015 when retired soldier Jayson Wood had the idea to acquire one of the decommissioned vehicles for Morinville to honour a fellow soldier who had died.
Wood approached the Rotary Club for assistance, and the club stepped up on the condition that the monument’s dedication would be to all military members past, present and future. Additionally, the Rotary Club wanted to involve Morinville, Sturgeon County, and the Morinville Legion and have an educational component.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Wood told Morinville Online before the ceremony. “I’m overwhelmed by how much a community can really come together to establish a monument for those who have served, and continue to serve, and to also have a piece of history that we can share with our kids.”
Sharing that history with children will be easy. The public display has several interpretive signs with information about the vehicle and QR codes for further details.
During the official ceremony, Rotarian Gord Putnam explained the project’s history, costs and the many organizations and businesses that stepped up to help make the project a reality.
The LAV III was transported from London, Ontario to Regina, Saskatchewan by rail, then to Edmonton Garrison by truck. The vehicle has been at the Garrison since 2019 as the Rotary Club continued to raise funds for the project. The LAV III arrived at its present location on Sept. 9, and work has been underway to get the site ready for the Oct. 2 opening.
Rotary received two grants for the project, $25,000 from Veterans Affairs and $125,000 from the province under the Community Facilities Enhancement Program.
“Without this support, this monument would not have been possible,” Putnam said during his presentation, noting Rotarian Mark Stevens was instrumental in helping secure the grants.
Putnam spoke emotionally of the help of Gerald van Bruggen of Heritage Nurseries, who had seen an article on the project and wanted to help.
“The last month here on site has seen countless hours of time and effort by Gerald and his crew,” Putnam said, noting the company worked in the dark the previous night to finish planting trees.
Before the ceremony, Putnam said the completed monument represents years of planning by a lot of people.
“It’s important to the community because, as we know, Morinville and Sturgeon County region is made up of many military members and their families,” Putnam said. “To honour those people is important. I can’t be more proud of how it’s come together and how it looks.”
It is a sentiment shared by Morinville-St. Albert MLA and Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally.
“This is an incredible moment, and I commend the Rotary Club for spearheading this project,” Nally said. “This sends a strong message to the veterans in this riding that we support the military, and to have this constant reminder of the important role the military plays is absolutely fabulous.”
Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma also commended the Rotary for their work in making the monument a reality. “It’s so amazing to see what this means to us, to have this many people in our community that have fought for our freedoms. To see this from the road shows—this is what our town stands for.”
Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw called the monument a beautiful symbol of community and all the members of the community and the military who are deployed around the world to protect the quality of life we have in Canada.
Hnatiw praised the collaboration on the project. “Whether you were laying sod or planting trees, everybody has had a hand in it,” Hnatiw said. “It’s been a real community project and a manifestation of just how important the military is to each and every one of us.”
Colonel R.W. McBride, Commander, 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton, said Morinville and Sturgeon hold a special place and have a part to play in the past and ongoing support to the military members and their families.
“The vast majority of the military community calls Morinville and Sturgeon County home, and the support they receive is truly phenomenal,” Col. McBride said. The colonel noted that over the past 20 years, the Canadian military had been the busiest both at home and overseas since the Second World War. “We cannot do this without the support of our communities.”
Col. McBride went on to say the LAV III is a testament to the work soldiers have done overseas.
“It symbolizes the sacrifices so many have made to ensure we are safe and secure in our country,” McBride said. “This vehicle was indeed the workhorse in Afghanistan. As a veteran of that conflict, like so many other soldiers, the LAV III became my home for many days and often weeks at a time.”
McBride concluded his address by saying that as many veterans pass the monument, it will let them reflect on the service and sacrifice so many had made.
On Oct. 29, 2011, Morinville experienced those sacrifices when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) took the life of a Morinville resident, Master Corporal Byron Greff, who was one of 17 killed in the suicide bomber attack which stuck an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) vehicle. Greff, the last Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, was mentioned during Sunday’s ceremony.
The Rotary LAV III monument will be permanently lit and sits below the Canadian and Canadian military flags, the only two flags permitted to fly on the poles.