November 02, 2014 - 5:06 AM
WHITBY, Ont. - Canada's first monument and park dedicated to wounded veterans and other uniformed personnel injured in the line of duty opened on Saturday.
The "Park of Reflection," which aims to be a living tribute to survivors and the families who care for them, was designed by Damian Boyne, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who served in Bosnia.
"We pay wonderful tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty but we have always forgotten those who have become ill and injured," Boyne said.
"(But) we see a new way of showing the ill and injured that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten."
An initiative of Wounded Warriors Canada, the park features amphitheatre seating overlooking a circular plaza with a labyrinth walking path and healing garden. A central sculpture depicts a first responder carrying a wounded comrade back to society. Tribute stones have been created to be inlaid in the pathway with the names of the ill and injured.
The aim is to provide a tranquil place that serves both as a tribute and as a place of calm and healing.
Dozens of uniformed personnel — military, police and firefighters — as well as veterans, spectators and dignitaries were on hand for the formal opening that featured the pomp and ceremony of a marching band, bagpipes and "The Last Post."
The hope is that the park will inspire other such parks in communities across Canada, said Derrick Gleed, vice-chairman of Wounded Warriors Canada.
Boyne, who suffered severe post-traumatic stress, said it can be especially difficult for those with less obvious injuries, and it's often their families who are left to cope.
"Post-traumatic stress creates disharmony in a family unit, so this monument depicts a family, a community," Boyne said.
"When you look at it, you'll see dogs and cats and babies and people in wheelchairs because that is what a community is all about."
Cpl. David Macdonald, a member of the Royal Regiment of Canada who was injured during a combat tour in Afghanistan and later suffered a stress disorder, said the new facility was important to him.
When a soldier comes home battered and broken, Macdonald said, it's a long journey to recover. But society often fails to recognize the toll taken on those with invisible scars or injuries.
"When you ask about the war in Afghanistan, everyone knows the tally of the soldiers that were killed," he said.
"No one knows the number of the soldiers that were wounded."
While the park will serve as a reminder of the wounded living among us, Boyne said he hoped it would also become a place of laughter and joy, of community events and theatre, and so become a celebration of life.
In that way, he said, those who survived their service should find some solace.
"If we can make them realize that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten, I honestly believe it's going to bring up their heart and soul and it's going to give them the courage to get back into the community again," Boyne said.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014