Monday, April 07, 2008

Governor General opens Beechwood National Memorial Centre

Not just for the fallen military:
Calling it "a promise never to forget," Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean opened a national memorial centre today commemorating Canada's fallen heroes and everyday people.

Nestled among trees and headstones alongside the national police and military cemeteries, the 1,300-square-metre facility will provide mourners with a place to reflect.

It will also honour the country's army, navy and air force veterans, as well as RCMP and other police, with a hall of military colours, a memorial window and educational facilities.

"This memorial centre is a promise made to the women and men who came before us and who shared their energy, enthusiasm and unique vision of the world," Jean told about 200 invited guests.

"It is a promise to never forget, despite the passage of time."

"It is a promise to continue their work and to add to it for the benefit of future generations."

"It is a promise to endeavour always to improve the lives of those around us."

The 135-year-old Beechwood Cemetery was formally declared a national historic site and home to the national military cemetery in 2001.

It became home to the national Mounted Police cemetery in 2004.

Until the 1970s, Canadian soldiers killed abroad were buried where they died, leaving war graves scattered from France to Japan.

Now Canada brings its war dead home, as it has done 82 times since Canadian troops went to war in Afghanistan in 2002...

At the cemetery itself, a 24-tonne block of granite flanked by flagpoles overlooks a long slope. The Maple Leaf and the Canadian Forces flags wave over the monument.

The block carries the dedication: "To the men and women of Canada's armed forces who have served their country with distinction in war and peace."

The burial ground is open to members of the forces, serving and retired, as well as members of the merchant marine.

There are more than 400 military graves in the cemetery. Hundreds of veterans still living have pre-purchased plots and their headstones stand in the ranks ready for the inevitable...
More on the background to the memorial centre here, and Governor General Michaƫlle Jean's speech is here.


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