The ambitious new war memorial to fallen pilots of the Second World War that is taking shape on the grounds of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is deserving of public support.
But as worthwhile as the RCAF Second World War memorial will be in terms of honouring fallen airmen who died in service to this country and the Commonwealth, the government appetite for funding these kinds of historical projects may not be there.
The museum’s Memorial Project Committee is in the process of building a 300-foot-long black granite wall that will be inscribed with the names of 19,286 airmen, including members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Canadians who served in any Commonwealth air force, who died during the Second World War.
The $1.25-million memorial will also honour members of the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force who lost their lives in or near Canada during the war.
In front of the expansive structure will stand an eight-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of an airman in a flight suit, with a parachute slung over his shoulder.
No doubt, this will be a wonderful tribute to our fallen Commonwealth airman, and having such a memorial at the Air Training Plan Museum is a perfect fit, in our opinion.
Thus far, as the Sun reported yesterday, the committee has collected more than $440,000, mostly from local sources such as businesses and individuals. That is an impressive amount of financial support for a project that got off the ground only a short time ago.
The concrete foundation has already been poured, and 56 granite panels that make up the wall are already engraved with the names and are ready to be put into place.
But project chairman Archie Londry has expressed his irritation with the provincial and federal governments, saying they have thus far not offered any funding to help complete the project.
“Very, very disappointed. Extremely disappointed,” Londry told the Sun, adding those to be honoured by the memorial deserve support. “They sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”
To their credit, Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire and Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell say they support the memorial project, and they are hopeful government funds could be made available.
Federally, there could be funding available through Veterans Affairs, and through Canadian Heritage. Provincially, Caldwell says there has never been a provincial fund or program for war memorials, though he says he is trying to create one that could be used to help this project.
The City of Brandon has provided gifts in kind, including free surveying and help with securing the required building permits.
But even if government cash is made available, it will more than likely fall short of what Londry and the committee had hoped for — that the feds and the province would chip in a third of the cost each.
This is not that surprising. The $160,000 Brandon Veterans Memorial, which was built at the corner of 11th Street and Victoria Avenue, drew some government support, but not a three-way split. The province kicked in $10,000, and the federal government pledged $50,000.
With no disrespect meant to the memorial committee or any veterans who have served their country, we’re not entirely convinced that governments need to step up to fully fund every single memorial project that comes up — especially when there are other, more pressing financial concerns in our community.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 10, 2014