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Photos: Flyby, poetic words mark opening of Outlook's memorial park

A large, respectful crowd was on hand to witness a landmark event in the community

OUTLOOK - “It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy said those words, and when one enters the space that is now the Veterans Memorial Park in Outlook, the impact of such words can certainly be felt.

Following an unofficial event held last October, the grand opening of the park held on Saturday afternoon, June 4 was a much more official affair. A sizable crowd gathered in the greenspace, and at 2:00 on the nose, a special flyby by Captain Olivier Savaria of 15 Wing Moose Jaw careened over Outlook in a CT-155 Hawk fighter jet, signifying the start of the day's program in memorable fashion.

Touching on both the history and the significance of the new park space, Outlook Legion Branch 262 President John McPhail highlighted the contributions of two local men who had served in each of the world wars. The efforts given and the sacrifices made would serve as part of the foundation, or perhaps the reason, for a memorial park to become a reality in Outlook decades later.

"As I stand here this afternoon, the names of two young men from Outlook come to mind; Private Francis Everett Dodge and Private Harold Matthew Brockbank," said John. "Private Dodge was working as a bank teller in Outlook when he signed up in Moose Jaw on October 24, 1914 - 88 days after the beginning of World War I. He was killed in action on October 12, 1915 in Belgium. Private Brockbank was killed in World War II on November 23, 1944. These two young men, plus at least 600 more veterans that Branch 262 researched, has identified as coming from Outlook and district, not to mention the young men and women from our community who are currently serving, all of them symbolize the sacrifice made on our behalf. Fortunately, most of the local veterans returned home."

Privates Dodge and Brockbank never returned. Dodge, who was killed in World War I, is buried at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery in Heuvelland, Belgium. Brockbank, the only son of Margaret and Stephen Brockbank of Outlook, is buried at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, Holland.

"Today, we honor all veterans, past and present, living and those who have passed on. The opening of any memorial is a significant event in the life of a Legion branch," said McPhail.

The dream of establishing a space that honours the sacrifices made by Canada's veterans and serves as a monument of remembrance goes back several years. After many twists and turns along the way, McPhail credited the Town of Outlook for sharing in the enthusiasm and the commitment to see the project come to fruition.

"After three years of planning, fundraising and construction, Branch 262 is pleased that you can join us to celebrate the achievement, but more importantly, to fulfill the purpose of the Royal Canadian Legion," said John. "Our branch, along with 1350 other branches across Canada, exists to support veterans who served their country in the past and to support veterans and their families today, some of whom live with physical and psychological wounds that hurt and haunt them. Current world events remind us all of the appalling human cost of war. Branch 262 extends its thanks to the Town of Outlook for sharing the vision that a centrally-located veterans park will serve as a reminder to all who live in and travel through our community that we must never forget the sacrifices that Canadian men and women have made so that we can live in a democratic nation with all of its citizen benefits and obligations. The opening of this park is a humbling act of remembrance. Moments from now, when the ribbon is cut to symbolize the opening of Veterans Memorial Park, we dedicate this park and ourselves to the ongoing task of remembrance. It can truly be said that Outlook Veterans Memorial Park is an authentic community effort."

Comrade Murray Kasper echoed McPhail's sentiments, thanking the Town of Outlook council and staff for their cooperation and faith in moving the monuments to the park's location. Kasper also thanked Paul Olson and the Broderick Garden Centre for the park's design concept and landscape work, Hank Halseth and crew for their "masterful work", and Brendan Simonson of BJS Abrasive Works who took the old blue paint off the arch that was originally located at the swimming pool down in the Outlook Regional Park. As well, J Wright Construction and crew were thanked for their days-long efforts to remove the arch from its original foundation, as were Ian Smith and Larry Pederson for their contributions, including the removal of trees to ensure the safety of the monuments and the placing of flag poles. Kasper also thanked Preus Electric for their generosity and expert advice. It took a substantial amount of people to help bring the Legion's vision of a memorial park, and for that, they were grateful for everyone's contribution.

Outlook mayor Maureen Weiterman, excited to see the park fully open, touched on the history of the spot and how the project came to the attention of the town council. Her own memories of the dedication of the cenotaph in the late 1960's helped paint a picture that brings things full circle to today.

"This is probably going to go down as one of the most exciting things I'm going to do in my first term as Mayor," she said. "I'm very glad to be here. It gives me great pleasure to be here. Where we are standing, there used to be a church. In 1939, a group of Norwegian immigrants laid the cornerstone of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which stood here for over 60 years. When a new church was built on property adjacent to the Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute in 2008, the building and the land was sold back to the town and the church building was demolished a few years later, and this became a greenspace. In 2019, Branch 262 of the Royal Canadian Legion under the leadership of Comrade John McPhail began the dream of turning this greenspace into a park and to have all of the town's war-related monuments in one attractive and welcoming location. A motion was passed by the town council in November of that year, giving Branch 262 its official endorsement, and Branch 262 led with design and fundraising and are responsible for all that you see here today. We owe them an incredible debt of gratitude for their vision and hard work. Many of us here have spent time as children playing under the war memorial arch, and I can personally remember the dedication of the cenotaph in 1968, where I stood with my fellow Girl Guides, our knees freezing on that cold November 11th. We've all walked the SkyTrail, passing the black metal monuments behind the Legion, and now they all find a home in this new Veterans Memorial Park. A fitting place to honor those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in a country where we are proud, strong, and free. I hope and I know as we go about our daily tasks that this park will be a reminder of that sacrifice. Lest we forget, lest we forget."

Arm River MLA Dana Skoropad thanked everyone for what has been accomplished with the park, and said that the location might just be the true 'heart' of Outlook.

"I thank you for what you've done here to remember and recognize brave men and women from your communities," he said. "Bravery is not putting yourself in harm's way, I would argue, but rather choosing to put yourself in harm's way because of the belief that there's something certainly more important than that fear, and something worth the sacrifice. When I looked earlier at the names etched in the plaques, I couldn't stop thinking about the people from your families and your communities who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice that is their lives to defend and secure our freedom with their whole heart. This might be the heart of Outlook, and this is the most absolute fitting place for it."

Fraser Tolmie, the MP for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan, was happy to see the wide-stretching age range of those who were present in the park to witness the opening. Touching on his own military experience, Tolmie said honouring Canada's veterans matters on a multitude of levels for a number of reasons.

"There are two things that have struck me today, before I start reading my speech," he said. "Number one, the diversity of the crowd, and what I'm talking about is the age range. Seeing young kids here and participating and remembering those that have gone before them, and second, the size of the crowd. This community can be very proud. Today is a special day; an important opportunity to reflect upon what this park is dedicated to. It's my privilege to sit on the House of Commons Veterans Affairs Committee and serve as Deputy Shadow Critic, supporting our veterans, their families, and celebrating the legacy of their service. Honouring our veterans matters to me as the grandchild of Scottish folks who welcomed the arrival of Canadian soldiers during World War II. Honouring our veterans matters to me as a former officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, who saw some of our friends come back from conflict as changed people, and others that did not come back at all. I learned during my time in our armed forces that not all wounds are visible and the burden that many of our veterans carry with them is immense. The most incredible part of our veterans and their families is that they gladly accept this burden so that all of us can enjoy a life of peace and safety in the greatest country on Earth. That's why we owe them our eternal respect and gratitude. Freedom is most definitely not free; it has been paid for in blood, sweat and tears by brave Canadian soldiers, American soldiers, Australian soldiers, British soldiers. We must never forget the lifelong debt that we owe our heroes who stand up for freedom."

President Keith Andrews of the Saskatchewan Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, was awestruck at the sheer sight of the memorial park, crediting those who have worked to make it come to pass for the community.

"Outlook has been a special place to me ever since I lived up here and worked here for a number of years," said Keith. "The Legion has done a lot of things for this community, and this is the most wonderful thing that you've done. The remembrance of the comrades that have gone and never returned, those who have returned and were not the same, and those who have passed on since. This is wonderful, comrades, and thank you all."

After a prayer of dedication by Branch 262 padre Pastor Mac de Waal, the ceremonial ribbon was cut by Mayor Weiterman and McPhail to declare Veterans Memorial Park officially open.

Taking a moment to spotlight the efforts made to ensure that this idea came to pass, President Andrews presented McPhail with a plaque on behalf of Saskatchewan Command, recognizing the tireless efforts that were made to ensure that the park space would become a reality. Visibly taken aback by the surprise honour, John closed his remarks by asking people who visit the park to take a moment and remember those who came before them.

"We ask that you make it a habit to visit the park from time to time," he said. "In the future, as you drive by or sit on one of the benches, we ask you to act on the invitation which you'll find engraved on the bronze plaque at the entrance to the park, on the sacrifices of Canadian veterans. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them."