SCHOOL TRIPS by Brynn Gawreluck
School trips, we usually think of trips to the museum or to the lake. This was most definitely not the case for a select number of junior highs attending Sturgeon Heights School in St. Albert, AB. I would have been in grade six, 2014, when the idea of a European memorial trip was shown to us, next thing I knew I was volunteering for a ten day excursion trip centered on World War One and Two. March 26, 2015, the day I left came quickly. My parents drove me to the airport and I bid them farewell as I joined my various classmates to the next available flight to London. We spent the next three days in London, before heading out to Belgium for two days. On the second day, we were loaded on to a large bus, taking us to the Flanders field museum in the center of Leper, Belgium. First walking in you could see a large wooden staircase leading up to what must have been the museum. Once you where upstairs you could see artifacts dating back to world war one. Clothing, vintage weaponry and videos of Canadian soldiers and various other soldiers in combat were featured around the museum. We saw clips of D Day, videos of war and destruction, people sacrificing their lives for the freedom and safety of their country. Glass rectangular boxes containing newspapers from all over America, Britain and Canada at the time of the war lined the walls. After exiting the museum, it was off to
Normandy. Our first stop in Normandy was the infamous beaches. We visited 3 of the five beaches, stretched along the coastline of France. Utah, Omaha and Juno beach. Standing on the coastline,
watching the water roll against the beach, trying to imagine large ships unloading supplies and men, only to be shot down on site. Imagining the war that took place on those beaches almost 100 years ago, it almost seemed impossible to imagine what had happened during that fateful day we now call D- day, the beaches were so calm and bright. It was a sad feeling to know that someone sacrificed themselves for your country, and knowing that they died where you where standing. We then drove off to Vimy Ridge. Getting off the bus, you could see hills much larger than the fields surrounding
the area. Brick tunnels ran through the various hills, guarded by metal railings. Trees covered the grassy areas, and wide gravel roads lined the ridge. Walking along the path, you could see what was
left of a trench; a large ditch-like path ran through the hills, dodging trees and tunnels. The trenches had mostly been filled with dirt, only leaving about four feet of trench.
We were prevented from walking anywhere but where the paths lead, we had been told that live bombs still housed Vimys’ numerous hills. Standing in the tunnels made me uncomfortable but not to
the point of leaving. Just thinking about what had taken place here almost 100 years ago made me feel a little uneasy. Once we had exited the tunnel we where about a half mile from where we
originally started. The exit led to the original, untouched remains of the tunnels; bricks lined the walls ranging from four to six feet in height. They twisted around corners and trees, it almost felt
unreal that this was the site of death at one point in our history, it was so peaceful, but still very dangerous. We drove about two minutes, until we reached the Canadian Vimy Ridge memorial. Staring
up at the white marble statue it had to be at least 200 feet high. Staring up at the memorial, it gave me a good feeling inside, it made me feel proud of my country, that it fought for the freedom and
safety of its own and others. Trees lined a path leading to the memorial and a flag stood, a single Canadian flag flashing the bright red and white colors in the wind. As the bus started up for the last
time in Vimy, it gave me a little time to reflect on my entire trip, all the museums, all the artifacts, and all the history. I stared down at my camera, and then looked back at the monument, it was a
beautiful piece of art, to say the least. After the memorial there was one more stop, just one more bus ride, The Flanders field Canadian cemetery. The bus halted and we slowly made our way off the
bus. White headstones lined the grass, everywhere you looked there where white headstones. I walked up a small tower like structure to get a better view, I had to at least have counted 150
headstones, and they seemed to go on forever.I will never forget that trip to Europe, if I got the chance, I’d do it all over again.
On the afternoon of Friday 29th May 2015, several members of the Okotoks Legion met
with Edmonton Centre MP and retired Air Force veteran Laurie Hawn and MP for
MacLeod John Barlow. Please see the full article in the Western Wheel by clicking
SHE MADE THEM FAMILY by Anne Gafiuk
District Commander Dino Michaud presenting the Charter to Branch #291 President Bob McLeod (See the Gallery for more pictures).
Okotoks Legion Branch #291 Charter Night Celebration
A couple of years ago Graham Kuntz suggested to Malcolm Hughes that there should be a Royal Canadian Legion again in Okotoks, two years later, the vision of the two men came to fruition. The Branch #291 of the Royal Canadian Legion boasts more than 170 members. Saturday 23rd May saw the official presentation of the Charter to Branch #291, the only Charter awarded in 2014 and only the 3rd since 1991. Recently we were also awarded the Gold award for Membership. Malcolm told us that in all the years with the Legion he had never seen one awarded, so another achievement for us to be proud of. John Barlow, MP for MacLeod said "Canada is free. Strong. And Beautiful. It is because of the people who are in this room and I cannot thank you enough."
If you would like to become a member of Branch #291 please come to the next meeting. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at the Elks Hall on Elizabeth St, Okotoks.
One of our newer (and younger) members, Chris Amyot and his wife Lisa have just welcomed their son Mason William into the world. Mother and baby are doing well and Chris is lacking sleep but the proud parents are delighted.
Mason's middle name honours his great grandfather, a former Servicemen and Legion Member who was also the inspiration for Chris to join our organization.
Another member of our Branch, Pete Gauthier is the baby's Godfather.
Congratulations from all of us to the new parents.
Malcolm Hughes is now the District 5 Commander of the Royal Canadian Legion. Congratulations and Well Done Malcolm
Those of you that have photographs and stories of yourself or your loved ones that you would like to share, and have them seen on this website, please contact Mandie Barker
Please scroll down
Please see information on a terrific book that describes the participation and
contributions that Okotoks area servicemen and women in the RCAF, RCN and Canadian
Army made to the WWII war effort.
The book is 350 pages and is based on a scrapbook made by Mrs. Alice Spackman of
Okotoks with pictures, letters, newspaper articles, poems describing the events and the
The author, Anne Gafiuk, will be at the Okotoks library on Saturday 20 June with a
draft of the book. Right now she is trying to determine how many copies of the book to
Anne's contact information is below. If you are not able to drop into the library on
Saturday, she would be delighted to hear from you by phone or by email.
The Long Way Home team!
Branch Meetings are held on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7pm.
Our next Branch Meeting is on January 9th at 19:00 (7pm)
at the Elks Hall.
Okotoks Legion Branch # 291
The Okotoks Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion #291, was given its charter in December 2014. This opened the door to the Town of Okotoks veterans having a specific place to go and be with their comrades in an atmosphere of military camaraderie. Currently we are the guests of the Elks hall on Elizabeth Street, but are hoping to have a permanent home very soon.
To Support our veterans, young and old!
Please Scroll down...
VISIT BY MIKE BURGESS THE ABNWT COMMAND SERVICE OFFICER - SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
We are pleased that Mike Burgess the ABNWT Command Service Officer will come to Okotoks at the Elks Lodge on 10 September at 7PM to speak to all who are interested and answer questions.
Mike will speak for about an hour and will explain a great deal on the Veterans Charter, the benefits available to military and RCMP veterans and answer questions about services and what he and the Legion Branch Service Officers can do to aid us.
If you are able to attend, please email Okotoks.email@example.com, so that we can plan for sufficient seating.
This event was cancelled
The grand-daughter of Branch #291 member Ian Stenberg, Brynn Gawreluck writes of her trip to England and Vimy this summer with a group of students from school.
Well done Brynn and Thank you!
The Long Way Home
There are a group of veterans who have been walking/riding horses across Canada to raise awareness of PTSD
and to support efforts and organizations which assist the Veteran.
Details are at www.thelongwayhome.ca
They are currently in Sparwood BC, having completed the Saskatchewan/Alberta/British Columbia leg. We were
proud to have them stop in to our last Legion meeting on June 9th. It was an honour to meet the team and share
some pizza with them.