Peacekeepers saluted with new cenotaph plaque in Innisfail

Installation on Innisfail Cenotaph also honors veterans of Afghanistan deployment

INNISFAIL – The plaque on the downtown cenotaph on Main Street that honors the ultimate sacrifice of veterans of both World Wars and Korea now has company.

The long-standing plaque is now joined by a second that honors United Nations peacekeepers and veterans of Canada’s campaign in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

The new second plaque was installed at the Cenotaph on October 30.

The new plaque initiative has been spearheaded by Doug Holsworth, executive member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 in Innisfail for the past four years.

He is also a veteran who served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry of the Canadian Army and served as a United Nations peacekeeper in Cyprus in 1988.

He said it was about two years ago that he realized that “something” was missing on the Cenotaph, and that more needed to be added following recent conflicts where Canada experienced war deaths.

It was then decided by the members of the local executive to go ahead.

“I took it on myself, and it wasn’t much to do. It was just a matter of coming up with a design and finding the funding,” said Holsworth, adding that funding from the organization’s Poppy Fund was ultimately approved by Dominion Command at the Royal Canadian Legion’s National Headquarters.

He also noted that local branch members Richard Black and Lester Nickel were instrumental in securing the funds through Alberta/NWT Command.

“We had to get special permission to do this because poppy funds don’t necessarily always cover the cenotaph,” Holsworth said. “But in this case, Dominion Command let us use the Poppy Fund to do it. So he was fully paid for by donations from the Poppy Fund.

The Innisfail branch then received nearly $2,000 to create the new cenotaph plaque.

Since October 30, many locals have noticed the new plaque and welcomed it. However, one veteran noticed that “something” was still missing.

Michael Barclay is a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. He was deployed to Kosovo in 1999 for six months and to Bosnia in 2003 and 2004 for four months.

Both times he served as a NATO peacekeeper during Operation Kinetic in Kosovo and Operation Palladium in Bosnia.

“By oversight, they forgot to add NATO peacekeepers killed in the line of duty on this new plaque,” said Barclay, who joined the military in 1988 and retired in 2010 with the rank of Master Corporal (MCpl). “I have informed the Innisfail Legion about this and hope it will be rectified in the near future.”

Don Harrison, the Innisfail branch manager, said he had spoken with Legion members about Barclay’s concern, and it was agreed the problem was a “pretty simple fix”; whoever looks “nice”.

“It was a bit of an oversight, and we’re going to fix it, and we’re going to move on,” Harrison said, adding that the fix likely won’t be ready for this year’s Memorial Day ceremony.

“We’re going to get our hands on the plate company and we’ll do everything we can to make it look professional and very nicely recognized by NATO peacekeepers.”

The most recent records available show that 10 Canadian NATO peacekeepers lost their lives while serving in the Balkans.

Their service, along with United Nations peacekeepers, is now honored with commemorative memorial stones at Camp Black Bear, the main Canadian camp in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia.

Canadians who died from NATO missions are:

• Pte. C. Holopina, July 4, 1996

• Cap. RD Vialette, July 21, 1997

• MCpl TS McCrea, 25 March 1998

• Cpl J. Ogilvie, August 30, 1998

• Spr. G. Desmarais, August 25, 1999

• Sergeant. H. Jerry Squires, August 25, 1999

• Sgt V. Joubert, December 13, 1999

• Cap. Robert T. Pollard, September 28, 2000

• Ch. Gerald K. Bailey, October 27, 2000

• Cap. Jamie Dennis Vermeulen, July 6, 2003

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