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New war monument to be unveiled this weekend

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Cathy Dobson

The whole community should be proud, say members of the 1st Hussars Association Afghanistan monument committee.

On Sunday, Sarnia will become only the fourth Ontario community to dedicate a LAV III monument to the 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces who served and sacrificed during the war in Afghanistan.

A ceremony beginning at 12:45 p.m. in Veteran’s Park behind the Sarnia Library welcomes all residents and will honour five Silver Cross families who lost their sons in the conflict.

A parade featuring members of the 1st Hussars Cavalry in 19th century costume will precede the ceremony.

Goderich, the Highway of Heroes near Whitby, and Brampton have also created monuments from decommissioned light armoured vehicles used by Canadians in Afghanistan. Fourteen other Ontario communities are working on it.

There would be many more had the federal government not rescinded an offer to provide 250 of the stripped-down vehicles free-of-charge, said Ron Prior of the 1st Hussars Association.

He has worked for more than a year with Mayor Mike Bradley, the city’s Ryan Chamney and Bill Chafe of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 62, to put the LAV monument on display in Sarnia.

Initially the committee tackled a $50,000 fundraising campaign.

“Then, when the Liberals were elected, one of the first things they did was cut the monuments budget,” said Prior. “We learned we had to pay $15,000 for a LAV III that was used in Afghanistan.”

Buy the community rallied, raising $65,000 in cash and service-in-kind. Fundraising is continuing to add granite benches around the monument and a maintenance fund, said Prior.

Groups like the Sarnia Saints Rugby team came through with $12,000 and are “a great example of how the community got behind this,” he added.

The nine-foot-high LAV III arrives from London this week, covered in a shroud and gutted, its gun replaced with a dummy that can’t be fired.

It’s being mounted on a cement pad installed by local members of the Laborers International Union of North America, who volunteered their time.

The annoyance of raise an extra $15,000 to purchase the LAV III quickly dissolved when committee members learned the money goes to assist Afghanistan veterans through a charity called Canada Company, according to Prior.

“When we knew what the money would be used for, we were very willing to do that,” he said.

Under the command of Major Brian Ashford, members of the 1st Hussars Regiment, Royal Canadian Regiment, the 1st Hussars Association, Cadets, Royal Canadian Legion Veterans and First Responders will leave from the corner of Wellington and Front and parade to Veteran’s Park.

The names of the 159 Canadians who died in the Afghanistan conflict from 2001 to 2014 will be read out, including those of Pvte. William Cushley of Port Lambton and Cpl. Brent Poland of Camlachie.

Cpt. Chaplain Jason Kouri of the 1st Hussars will perform the dedication, assisted by Deacon Chuck Stevens of the Royal Canadian Legion.

The public is invited to a reception that will follow at the Legion on Front Street.

“It shows we strongly support our military and our veterans. The committee is just overwhelmed by the assistance we’ve received,” Prior said.

It’s a busy week for the Legion’s Branch 62, on top of Sunday’s LAV III dedication, the branch is hosting a 90th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion on Saturday.

A meet and greet with local dignitaries starts at 1 p.m., followed by music by The Sarnia Kitchen Party Band and the Legion Pipe Band.

The public is urged to attend to celebrate 90 years of service to veterans, their families and our community.

On Tuesday Nov. 1 at 11 a.m., Branch 62 is holding a Lest We Forget flag raising outside its building at 286 Front St.

Mayor Mike Bradley and legion members will attend to kick off Remembrance Days, which continue to Nov. 11.

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