Canada’s first monument and park dedicated to wounded veterans and other uniformed personnel injured in the line of duty opened on 01 November 2014 at Whitby, a town about 50 kilometers from Toronto. The park has been aptly christened as ‘The Park of Reflection,’ which aims to be a living tribute to survivors and the families who care for them. The park was designed by Daimian Boyne, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who served in Bosnia. Boyne believes that everyone remembers those who have fallen in the line of duty but have always forgotten those who became ill and injured.
Boyne, who suffered severe post-traumatic stress, said it can be especially difficult for those with less obvious injuries and it is often their families who are left to cope. He is also of the opinion that post-traumatic stress creates disharmony in a family unit and this monument depicts a family and a community dealing with such veterans.
After leaving the military in 2006, Mr. Boyne struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts and other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He went on to study horticulture at Algonquin College in 2009 with the help of a veterans’ transition program and found nature to be a key part of the healing process. Currently national events co-ordinator with Wounded Warriors Canada, Boyne said he has run many events across the country and watched nature return smiles to the faces of men and women, showing them there’s life after service.
On release from the military after being injured in the line of service there was a thought in Boyne’s mind as to how people are going to remember the sacrifices of him and his family. He thought of a the firefighter who runs into a house to save lives and ends up getting hurt. He or her, and their families, made the sacrifice for the community and as a token of paying them back and remembering them forever, he came up with the idea of this park.
Canadians pay wonderful tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty but we have always forgotten those who became ill and injured on the line of duty. Many are left with lifelong scars – physical, emotional, psychological, etc. Some live a difficult and dreadful life post retirement. This park aims to be a living tribute to survivors and their families who care for them. This is a new way of showing the ill and injured that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The park, an initiative of Wounded Warriors Canada, features an amphitheater 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, with shapes surrounding it that represent community members. Tribute stones have been created to be inlaid in the pathway with the names of the ill and injured. Members of the public have been advised to purchase tribute stones for $500 each, with the name of a loved one who has been injured in service, to be placed at the park. The centerpiece was envisioned by Daimian Boyne with an aim to provide a tranquil place that serves both as a tribute and as a place of calm and healing.
The Wounded Warriors Canada hopes that the park will inspire other such parks in communities across Canada and also across the world. While this park will serve as a reminder of the wounded living among us, it would also become a place of laughter and joy, of community events and theater, and so become a celebration of life. If we can make the wounded veteran realise that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten, one can honestly believe that it is going to bring up their heart and soul and it is going to give them the courage to get back into the community again.
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’.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was in Whitby on Saturday, where he said that such spaces are appreciated by those in uniform. He added that it gave them strength and just reminds them that their sacrifice and their effort on behalf of their fellow citizens is recognized and appreciated.
Corporal 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. He added that when a soldier comes home battered and broken, it is a long journey to recover. The society often fails to recognize the toll taken on those with invisible scars or injuries. When asked about the war in Afghanistan, everyone appears to know the tally of the soldiers that were killed, but no one knows the mere numbers of soldiers maimed or wounded, some for life.
One of my Gurus during my Indian Army days, General Raj Mehta, was wounded while serving as a Brigadier in Kashmir, fighting the terrorists. He wrote to say that a memorial for the wounded is something pretty unusual from the Indian context because we neglect our brave dead savagely, so cannot be expected to really bother about our wounded who are still alive…We have many many cases where the wounded are denied disability pension which both military as well as civil bureaucracy holds up on trivial grounds and contests in the courts for years. When he got wounded, he was savagely criticised because it was felt that a Brigadier should not have got wounded as it gave the terrorists a moral ascendency. Superficially, however, a veneer of concern was maintained by the hierarchy by sending “Get Well…We are proud of you” messages, but in reality, most of this was disingenuous talk that was so easy to see through…