Afghanistan Memorial arrives in Lacombe
The parents of the late Master Cpl. Byron Greff, Candace “Candy” and Greg Greff stand in front of a demilitarized LAV III which will sit near their son’s grave in the Fairview Cemetary’s Field of Honour as a memorial to the services, sacrifices and commitments of Canadians who served in Afghanistan from 2001-2014. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
Honouring the services and sacrifices of Canadians during the mission in Afghanistan was the right thing to do according to those involved with the Afghanistan Memorial project.
There was no room for doubt outside the Lacombe Legion last Thursday as the demilitarized Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) III set to become a monument in Fairview Cemetery’s Field of Honour rolled into Lacombe.
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins, who spearheaded the project, said it was nice to see it arrive. More importantly, however, was its significance.
“The real reason we wanted to do this, of course, is remembrance,” he said. “As a member of parliament, one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make was sending our young men and women into harm’s way.
“At the time we thought it was the right thing to do and I still believe it was the right thing to help those around the world who needed our help.”
A total of 40,000 Canadian soldiers served in Afghanistan from 2001-2014. During that time 162 lives were lost.
In 2011, Lacombe native Master Cpl. Byron Greff of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was the final casualty, and one of the key factors in the community receiving a LAV III.
The project began several years ago when Calkins travelled to Italy for the 70th anniversary of the Italian campaign where he met Steve Gregory from Canada Company. The group had acquired 250 LAV III’s that would be decommissioned and turned into monuments.
“I immediately thought of the community and the fact the last soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan came from our community,” Calkins said. “With quite a bit of community support, we were able to acquire this LAV.
“Today is marking that acquisition.”
The LAV III itself was purchased outright through the donation of former Sunny 94 owners, Troy Schaab and Sonia Sawyer. Everything afterwards was put towards transportation and costs associated with putting it on a pad. A total of $65,000 was raised.
Canadian Pacific Railway shipped the unit across the country for free.
City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said the project has been a huge community effort.
“The monument represents an incredible sense of pride that we feel right here in Lacombe, and I go back to it’s the right thing to do,” he said as part of an emotional speech. “On behalf of the City of Lacombe and staff, I would like to offer our sincere thank you to our MP, to the community members for making this happen and making sure we don’t forget our local veteran.”
The Greffs, he said, were the first family his own met when they moved to the community 23 years ago and have been friends ever since.
“To be a part of remembering him, and to commemorate his sacrifice, not only to Lacombe, to Alberta, but to our country is a very, very special thing for me and for the community,” he said.
“The LAV will stand in the Lacombe cemetery’s Field of Honour in memory of all the soldiers, but in our hearts, it’s there for Byron.”
While early conversation amongst community members on where to put the monument about a year ago centred around the LAV III being a symbol of war, local veteran Bryce Talsma said during a presentation at the legion earlier this year that to the soldiers, the machine was a piece of Canada-where they felt safest during the mission.
Greff’s parents, who took in the arrival of the monument, agreed, saying their son would not have an issue with a LAV III being near his resting place – which is precisely where it will be located.
“He’d be proud that it’s there,” said Greg. Candace nodded her head. It’s a feeling they share.
“I feel community pride. I feel proud of the Canadian Armed Forces - regardless of where they are and what they’re doing all over the world. The support Canadians give and Albertans have given to us and to the armed forces, the City of Lacombe and all the people who contributed to bring it here is amazing,” Candace said.
“It warms a person’s heart...I know that Byron is looking down from heaven and smiling at us.”
The decommissioned LAV III will be stored until the Lacombe Days Parade on Saturday, July 29 when it will make its way through the streets of downtown Lacombe. The plan is to have as many members of the Canadian Armed Forces, in particular those from 3rd Batallion Princess Patricia’s light infantry.
Invites have also been extended to local military at the Red Deer Armoury, as well as local police officers, fire departments, RCMP and others in uniform who wish to take part.
Following the parade, it will be taken to Fairview Cemetery where it will be placed on its pad in the Field of Honour. A service commemorating the occasion will be held at 3 p.m.
Another LAV III Afghanistan Memorial will be in Morinville, Alta. where Greff was living when he was killed.