A Port aux Basques man continues to combine his love of the outdoors with his respect for fallen soldiers.
Colin Seymour is ready to place 158 yellow ribbons – one for each Canadian soldier who lost their life in the war in Afghanistan – along the hiking trail leading to Mark Rock Mountain, just outside South Branch, where a monument honours Sgt. Craig Gillam of that community.
Gillam died in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2006. He was 40 years old.
When Seymour, his wife Cindy and family friend Donna Stuckless tried to hike the trail and visit the monument in August 2015, they found it had grown in so much they couldn’t get near the top of the mountain.
Seymour returned to the trail alone, determined to make his way to the monument. It would be his first of many trips.
“I picked my way up through the woods... originally, they’d put out (over 140) yellow ribbons to mark the trail,” he said, referring to the ribbons commemorating soldiers who had lost their lives in Afghanistan when the monument was first erected in Gillam’s memory. Remnants of those ribbons are still there, he said.
With the permission of Gillam’s family, Seymour has made a new wooden cross for the monument to replace the original one that had withered with time.
“My friend, Kevin Osmond, came up with me to install the new cross. He wore the boots that he had on in Afghanistan when Craig was sent home,” Seymour recalled.
Seymour also cut a fallen soldier cross out of a piece of steel and erected it at the monument site.
Although the trail is about 70 kilometres from their home, Colin and Cindy have made many trips to Mark Rock, clearing the trail so that by the Fall of 2016, it was in good enough shape for others to make their way to the top of the mountain.
“Some of the alders that we cut are still in the trail so I’m planning on going up this spring and cleaning up all the trail,” he said.
In addition to the trail cutting the Seymours have done, someone they don’t know also cleared a small section of the trail, he said.
Seymour marked the name of a fallen soldier on each of the 158 yellow ribbons he’s made to mark the trail. He’ll place a poppy from the local Legion branch in each ribbon.
He also plans to replace solar lights at the monument site. The lights were first installed by the family so that a loved one who couldn’t make the trip to the top of the mountain could see the site from the community.
Gillam’s family and friends organized hikes to the mountain for several years after the monument was erected. After the trail grew in, Seymour said, the annual memorial service was held in Gillam’s home community of South Branch.
Seymour said it was important for him to get permission from Gillam’s family to work on the monument site.
For him, he said, it’s all about respecting and remembering fallen soldiers.
When contacted for comment about Seymour’s initiatives, Gillam’s sister Janet Bishop said her family is “honoured by the dedication that Colin is putting into the hiking trail up to Mark Rock.”
Her brother loved hiking the trail, she said.
“I remember (Craig) taking us up the mountain as kids and the trail wasn’t always cut out or easy to hike up. So, having Colin and Cindy clearing the trail and marking it with yellow ribbons for the fallen soldiers is absolutely amazing,” she said.
“The kindness they have shown to make sure our family was okay with what they are doing, as well as the piece he made for the top of the mountain truly shows what a caring person he is,” Bishop added.
Bishop said she met the Seymours this past summer on her way through Port aux Basques. It felt like she’d known the couple for years, she said.
“Knowing that people still remember and care about the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice is truly touching and warms my heart, knowing that they (Craig and all the other fallen soldiers) will not be forgotten,” Bishop said.
For more information visit “A memorial hike in honour of the late Sgt Craig Gillam” on Facebook.