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The Guardian Monument in Tweed


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Sculpture honours Canadian heroes

Luke Hendry
Local News - Friday, May 11, 2007 @ 10:00

This town has a new Guardian.

Watched by a crowd of about 500, Tweed artist Paul Shier unveiled The Guardian Thursday morning. The six-foot white marble sculpture of a wolf is dedicated to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Its placement in Tweed Memorial Park was arranged by Shier, Tweed municipal council, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 428 in Tweed, and many local volunteers.

Highway 37 south of downtown was closed to traffic during the one-hour ceremony in Tweed Memorial Park.

It began as Legion Branch 428's colour party led a parade of 50 serving Royal Canadian Regiment troops and about a dozen of the 1st Canadian Army Veterans motorcycle group from Trenton and Kingston.

Civilians both applauded and paused for moments of reflective silence as dignitaries read tributes to the fallen, their families, Shier, and others for making the memorial possible.

Among the crowd were several women wearing the Silver Cross, a medal awarded to the mothers and wives of soldiers killed in the line of duty. In total, five spouses and three sets of parents were present along with other relatives.

Each family represented a soldier killed in the last 18 months. Though many travelled 

from Petawawa, some came from as far away as northern Alberta.

"We want you to know they will not be forgotten," Pat Thomas, president of Legion Branch 428, told the families.

To the surviving soldiers Thomas added, "We know you are making a difference."

Politicians from as far as North Hastings were on hand, as were local firefighters, police, and civilians.

Tweed Reeve Jo-Anne Albert said the soldiers are "fighting for the freedom, principles, and values that characterize this wonderful country.

"This small community will remember your loss every time we pass this monument," she said to the families.

Ottawa's Heather Anderson and husband Gary Benedict laid the only wreath at the stone wolf's feet. They were there to remember their son, Pte. Blake Williamson, 23, who died Oct. 14, 2006.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful monument," Anderson said, adding she was glad to attend. "It's correct that Canada should be acknowledging them for what they are doing.

"I'm sad just a little bit, but I'm very proud, very honoured to represent Blake ... We have to honour them, and so when they ask us to do something we do it."

She said Blake's brother, Levi Williamson, is now about to join the same battalion.

"We're very proud of him," Anderson said.

Some of the Silver Cross wives hugged Shier after the unveiling, thanking him for the tribute.

"I"m lost for words," said Kelly Dove, who lost her husband, Warrant Officer Richard Nolan, 39, last Sept. 3.

"'Bittersweet' pretty much sums it up," said Charmaine Tedford, wife of Sgt. Darcy Tedford, 32. "it's nice to see the support outside a military town."

Sculptor Shier, meanwhile, stood next to his creation for the service and unveiled it with Legion president Thomas but kept an otherwise low profile.

"I was just honoured, moved," he said after the soldiers' families thanked him.

"That's what it's all about. It's for them."

"In the beginning I didn't think it was going to be any of this," he said of the crowd. "But that's why we're doing it, because we're proud of them and what they're doing. That's Canada."

Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Jack Vance, a native of Thomasburg south of Tweed and a longtime member of the RCR, wanted to be sure the regiment was part of the service.

He said it was crucial to "have standing in front of us young soldiers who were actual veterans of the Afghanistan campaign ... It had to have really authentic participation.

"The monument is for the fallen but in a way it's a tribute to all the soldiers who have served over there and will serve over there," said Vance, a former vice-chief of Canada's defence staff.

In total, 50 soldiers in green dress uniforms stood in two rows along the park's north side. Behind them were hundreds of applauding, flag-waving children from Tweed's three schools.

The RCR's Capt. Mike Fenton said the company's soldiers, all of whom served in Afghanistan, were excited to be part of the ceremony.

"We just couldn't believe how quickly they'd decided to make a memorial to Afghanistan," he said. "Usually these things take several years or even several decades.

"It's a great honour," he said, adding Tweed is on the RCR's route as troops travel to and from CFB Trenton on their journey between Petawawa and Afghanistan.

"As we deploy again and as we come back in the future we'll pass by the memorial," he said. "It's a great feeling."

Fenton said the troops always felt Canadians' support while serving overseas.

"This just reinforces it," he said. "We love it."