OUTLOOK - Although an official and more elaborate grand opening celebration is being earmarked for next spring, members of Outlook Branch 262 of the Royal Canadian Legion were on hand alongside officials with the Town of Outlook for a small dedication event held at the nearly-completed Veterans Memorial Park.
For Legion members and those who have served, this event was a long time in the making and something that many people have looked forward to; the culmination of a great deal of effort in order to preserve history and be sure that as Canadians, we do our part to honor and remember the sacrifices given so that we can enjoy today.
Held on Wednesday, October 27, the service drew much attention from passing motorists due to the park's location at the fourway corner of Saskatchewan Avenue and McKenzie Street, arguably at the center of Outlook.
Under a luckily sunny afternoon sky, Branch President John McPhail welcomed everyone to the festivities, which saw flags marched in and raised above everyone gathered in the park. McPhail asked Comrade Gerry Gross to step forward and share a few words, and the sentiments shared asked Canadian residents to always find a time to Remember, not just on one particular day in one particular month.
"Canadians often associate the Royal Canadian Legion with Remembrance ceremonies and events, most notably on November 11. Through these initiatives, we honour and remember Canada's Veterans, both fallen and living, and help ensure Canadians never forget," said Gross. "November 11 is recognized as a time of Remembrance for Legion members and for millions of Canadians across the country.
However, remembrance requires an even greater commitment than a single day. Remembrance is a year-long commitment. The Great War Veterans of Outlook who fundraised and built the Memorial Arch in 1926, the centrepiece of this park, perfectly understood that ongoing commitment.
It is a deeply felt, universal desire in all people to be remembered after they are gone. After all, if we are not remembered, that is an indirect way of saying that our lives did not matter. Therefore, we have a solemn obligation to remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of 115,900 Canadian lives lost in five wars - the Boer War, WWI, WWII, the Korean and Afghanistan wars - will be meaningless.
John McCrea expressed this belief in his famous lines: 'If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.'
As members of Branch 262 of the Royal Canadian Legion, we dedicate ourselves to the solemn promise to promote remembrance. We publicly declare that the creation of the Veterans Memorial Park demonstrates that we are committed to the importance of remember the men and women who have served our great country. It is our wish that, from this day forward, this park will endure and promote the cause of remembrance in the twenty-second century and beyond.
As we dedicate the Veterans Memorial Park, we promise, in John McCrea's words not to 'break faith'."
Taking to the podium, Mayor Maureen Weiterman touched on some of the history associated with the fourway corner, and relayed some of her own personal experience associated with the monuments that now reside at the memorial park.
"Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to be here representing the Town of Outlook at the dedication ceremony for the Veterans Memorial Park," said Weiterman. "As you are all aware, 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 land was sold back to the Town. The church building was demolished a few years later and become a green space.
In 2019 Branch 262 of the Royal Canadian Legion, under the leadership of Comrade John McPhail, began the dream of turning this green space 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 Town Council in November of that year giving Branch 262 its official endorsement. Branch 262 led with design and fundraising and are responsible for all that you see here today. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their vision and hard work.
The Government of Saskatchewan's Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport has just informed us that the Veterans Memorial Park has been placed on the Saskatchewan Register of Heritage Property. The Ministry has nominated the Veterans Memorial Park for listing on the Canadian Register of Historic Places and commends the Town of Outlook for preserving its heritage through public recognition and protection under the Heritage Property Act.
Many of us here have spent time as children playing under the War Memorial Arch alongside the stand of historical elm trees in the Park. 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 11. We have all walked the Sky Trail passing the black metal monuments behind the Legion. Today they all find a home in this new Veterans Memorial Park. Since people have met here for many years to pray, we can consider where we stand to be hallowed ground - 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.
As we go about our daily tasks, let this park be a reminder of that sacrifice. Lest we forget; lest we forget."
Though the park space isn't 100% finished just yet, the public is still highly encouraged to visit and explore what has been done to the space in a relatively short period of time, including the plaque located at the beginning of the walkway that touches on the history associated with the park's monuments.