Even though it was chilly out at the Estevan Air Port Yesterday, there was a great turnout at the unveiling of the Forever in the Clouds monument and memorial for the 21 Royal Canadian Air Force soldiers, who lost their lives shortly after the war in a plane crash outside of Estevan.
Marie Donais Calder local author and member of the Soldier Tree Committee explains, "having moved to Estevan 40 years ago, my father was in the military, so I've always been curious about events like this and 40 years ago people did know about the crash. We noticed in recent years that very few people know about it and when we were working on the Soldier Tree, we decided that somebody should commemorate these 21 lives that were lost in Estevan. That is when the search for the faces began."
Having found the final picture and adding it to the monument you would think they are finished but Marie says she isn't done yet.
"It's been a long journey but the journey isn't over yet. We have to do two more things, first is to find a home for the sculpture and the other challenge is to find the other 19 families. Trying to find 2 took me over a year and I still have 19 families to try and find. I don't feel we are done the journey till each one of those families knows their loved one didn't die unforgotten." She adds that she can be reached at on the Soldiers tree facebook page.
Michelle Turtle shares her relation to one of the soldiers, "Lt. Leonard Edgar Turtle is my great uncle, but also was my grandmother's first husband and she ended up remarrying his younger brother. I was pretty excited about it, I didn't grow up in Saskatchewan I moved here around 2005. My first time coming to Estevan I actually drove around looking for some sort of memorial because I had grown up hearing the stories and I knew that it had happened here. I couldn't find anything in town or on the internet so when Marie got ahold of me and I heard that they were building a memorial I was pretty excited about it."
"It's something really important, 21 people lost their lives and they're not really recognized appropriately and a lot of people don't even know of it. It made me really happy that something was being done. The monument is so beautiful and it's a really nice tribute and as Marie has said, all the men are together again."
Colonel Dennis O'Reilly commander of 15 Wing Moose Jaw was in attendance at the unveiling yesterday and lead in the singing of O Canada after the moment of silence.
O'Reilly explains, "I first heard of the monument through a mutual friend, Lester Hinzman who is friends with the carver Darren Jones. I'm originally from moose jaw, I grew up there and I know a lot of people in town. A guy named Jarred was friends with Lester. Lester was looking for someone on the base so we ended up having coffee. Lester was incredibly passionate about this project and what Darren Jones was planning on carving."
"They were having trouble finding some of the pictures, four of the last 21 people that died in this tragedy so we tried to help him find the pictures through our own archives in the military. That's how I got to know Lester. When I found out about it, we supported it at the Estevan Airshow in Estevan last year to unveil it to the public, even though there were 4 faces missing from it. The turnout was great because it was during the air show, so I came out with my chief and with some military contingent. We had a flypast with the missing man formation to honour the 21 men that died that day in 1946.
O'Reilly added, "If anyone knows of family members that are related to the 21 men that died September 15, 1946, it would be great that they come forward and identified themselves or if anyone knows any of the airmen that died. I think we are in contact with 2 of the families but there's 19 to go. As we memorialize the sacrifices they made, so soon after returning from the war they were only home for 12-14 months. It would be nice for the families to be here so we can remember their sacrifice and so they can participate in future memorials."