The army green Light Armoured Vehicle visible from Highway 642 jumps out from the stark flat landscape next to Morinville’s Leisure Centre.
Mounted on a gentle incline flanked by the Canadian flag and Canadian military flag snapping in the wind, the LAV III monument was officially unveiled. Several hundred military officials and members of the public attended the ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 2.
The monument is a dedication to 162 Canadians who died under fire during Canada’s participation in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The list includes 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) soldiers who returned home draped in a flag.
Locally they are Morinville’s Master Cpl. Byron Greff, stationed in Kabul, and Legal’s Master Cpl. Erin Doyle, stationed in Panjwa’i District. Both served in the 3rd Battalion, a regular force light infantry battalion.
In addition, four civilians — diplomat Glyn Raymond Berry, reporter Michelle Lang, and contractors Martin Glazer and Peter McSheffrey, are remembered.
In his address, special guest Col. Rob McBride noted that the monument is designed to recognize the contributions of the region’s many military members and families, and to honour the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers past, present, and future.
Spearheaded by the Morinville Rotary Club, the idea was proposed by retired soldier Jayson Wood seven years ago. He was aware of Canada Company’s offer to assist communities across the country to receive a decommissioned LAV III as a memorial. The LAV III monument is one of five in Alberta.
Speaking at the unveiling, past Rotary president Gord Putnam, now Judge Putnam, shared his personal connection to the project.
“Nothing important in life comes easy,” said Putnam. “I had an uncle who served in the war and when he came home, he went back to the family farm. He lived a lonely and isolated life and never talked about the war. But it had a huge effect on him. This is a way to thank Albert Putnam for his sacrifice and a way to thank him for his service.”
Putnam added, “We live in freedom and don’t realize what it took to get here. Everybody knows someone or has someone who has gone to war. But we forget in our day-to-day lives how they have been affected.”
Close to 40,000 Canadian soldiers served in Afghanistan and many rode in the all-terrain vehicle that could even travel in water up to 1.5 metres. The 350-horsepower turbo-charged diesel engine with automatic transmission allowed a LAV to travel up to 100 km/h.
Nearly seven metres in length, its combat weight was 16,958 kilograms, and it carried a crew of three personnel and seven passengers. It protected soldiers from various types of attack, and was outfitted with a nuclear, biological, and chemical filtration system.
At the unveiling, Padre Michael Macintyre, senior chaplain, 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, described how the hard steel machine barrelled across dry, rocky terrain, making smoke and kicking up dust. It was deliberately built to look large, imposing, and scary.
“They often acquired the temperaments of the soldiers who drove them into war,” said Macintyre. “It was also a safe space soldiers could talk about things without being overheard.”
The LAV III was the military’s workhorse in Afghanistan. In addition to ferrying soldiers and supplies, it was a place soldiers slept, ate, and called home. The LAV III served as a hospital, a hospice, a confessional for a soldier’s deepest fears, and even a tomb, said Macintyre.
To bring the LAV III monument to Morinville, it took seven years and $400,000. The provincial government contributed a $125,000 Community Facility Enhancement Program grant and Veterans Affairs contributed another $25,000.
Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma believes the monument coupled with the Leisure Centre next door and nearby baseball fields will attract people to the site.
“This is also an educational project for the schools and we’re sure schools will bring buses of students to learn more about Canada’s military history,” said Boersma.
The Rotary Club of Morinville will continue to provide maintenance funds for five years to repair any damage to the area. The entire area combines the LAV III, educational panels, newly planted trees, and benches.
Putnam said, “We want to make sure it remains a first-class monument. There will be challenges, but we will be here.”