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Military Cemetery Receives Tri-Service Monument

by Natalie Salat



Taking part in the ceremony to unveil a tri-service monument are (from left) Julia Mills, padre Gerry Peddle and Jean Pariseau who originally conceived the project. Top: The monument is inscribed with war poems such as In Flanders Fields.

On a day when most Canadians were concerned with voting in the federal election, a couple hundred dignitaries, veterans, widows, Canadian Forces members and members of the public gathered at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa to commemorate the site’s third anniversary and to unveil a tri-service monument.

It was the perfect day for the June 28 unveiling, sunny and mild with a smattering of clouds, but not so perfect a day for Defence Minister David Pratt, who would lose his seat in the House of Commons. But the election, as big an event as it was, came second in the thoughts of those who visited Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa to pay their respects.

“My husband was buried here last year,” explained Julia Mills, the elegant music director of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, who came to the ceremony with a group of friends. Mills’ husband, James, had started out as a chaplain with the army and then, when it became tri-service, stayed on with the Canadian Forces. “I think it’s important to come, and it’s wonderful that they have this cemetery for our husbands.”

The event began with the arrival of the Ceremonial Guard and Band, who provided stately accompaniment throughout. Among those observing were The Royal Canadian Legion’s Grand President Charles Belzile and John Hardy, honorary dominion president of Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada.

“Three years ago we gathered in this same beautiful setting to mark the opening of this cemetery,” recalled Lieutenant-General G.E.C. Macdonald, vice-chief of defence staff, standing in front of the Canadian Forces Monument. “The creation of this National Military Cemetery serves to enshrine a peaceful final home for those who served their country. It also reflects the pride and respect that Canadians feel for those men and women who give their very best in that service.”

After a solemn remembrance ceremony presided over by Gerry Peddle—a former chaplain-general of the Canadian Armed Forces who had a key role in the Tri-Service Monument’s establishment—the procession walked past the Field of Honour to the memorial, which was draped in purple cloth. The idea for the tribute originated with noted military historian Colonel Jean Pariseau two years ago. He enlisted the help of former chief of defence staff Paul Manson, who, in turn, brought in fellow former chiefs Robert Falls and Ramsay Withers to take the proposal to current chief, General Raymond Hénault. “Within a short period of time, it was approved,” Manson recalled in a short speech. From that point, Peddle, manager of the National Military Cemetery, worked with officials of Beechwood Cemetery to have the $40,000 monument engraved and installed.

Standing by the as-yet hidden memorial, Manson declared, “Today, Jean Pariseau’s dream has become a reality. All of us here can take pride in having participated in the inauguration of this wonderful monument, which will forever stand as a stirring tribute to those who served in Canada’s navy, merchant navy, army and air force.” With that, Manson, Falls and Withers, representing air force, navy and army respectively, assisted Pariseau in revealing the three-sided granite monument. The crowd applauded enthusiastically, and lined up to get a closer look following the ceremony.

The granite monument stands about 10 feet tall and bears the crests of the Canadian army, navy and air force as well as English and French versions of the famous war poems and lyrics of In Flanders Fields, The Naval Hymn and When I Think of Famous Men. The original plan to use High Flight for the air force was changed since a French translation has not been permitted under the copyright. “It’s one of those projects that’s perfect in every way,” said Manson after the ceremony. “I was here when they installed it on the pedestal—very satisfying.”

Peddle noted that it took a “significant amount of manoeuvring” to haul the 12-tonne granite block onto the massive concrete foundation that had been poured in mid-spring. He expressed gratitude that the weather had cooperated for the unveiling, and that there were veterans present. “It’s always good to see the older veterans coming by.”

Edward Renaud, who served with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment during World War II, said he had expected a larger turnout, but added, “I think it’s just wonderful. This whole thing should have been done years and years ago.”

At the reception that capped off the event, Belzile commented, “It was a beautiful ceremony, and I’m particularly happy that the concept (for the monument) came from a very good friend of mine, Jean Pariseau.”

Pariseau himself, however, was modest. “General Manson is the one who should take the credit, but he doesn’t. He shoves it on me.”

“It has all come together,” concluded Grete Hale, the chairman of the board for Beechwood Cemetery Foundation. “I like to see dreams come true, and this for many is a dream come true.”


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