SPECIAL TO THE GULF NEWS
SOUTH BRANCH, N.L. — Colin and Cindy Seymour are known for recutting the impassable hiking trail leading to Mark Rock Mountain, near South Branch. They used hand clippers to cut the trail, allowing others to hike and see a monument honouring community member Sgt. Craig Gillam, who died in the Afghanistan War in 2006. They also placed 158 yellow ribbons along the hiking route, representing the number of Canadian soldiers lost their life in that war.
This past year the names of those soldiers were laminated and placed at the monument.
On November 11, 2018, the Seymours received the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion Friendship Award. The medal and certificate recognize individuals or organizations who show their support of the activities and work in the community of Legion branches, zones, districts and provincial commands.
The couple are continuing their efforts to honour those who have served. This spring they began creating a special memory bench in memory of Colin’s brother, Curtis, a civilian, who died in 2018.
Colin added a special inscription to the bench.
“Built to honour & remember the fallen. To honour & thank the living. To support & thank those still serving and to bring Awareness to PTSD. Lest We Forget.”
But the couple had another idea to include the signatures of veterans or active soldiers on the boards of the bench.
Tony Brake, a retired veteran, originally from South Branch, and currently living in New Brunswick heard about this project. He purchased a board, had it signed by veterans and current soldiers in his province and hand delivered it to Colin.
Soon after, Kevin and Pam Osmond, from Port aux Basques, went to New Brunswick to attend Kevin’s daughter’s graduation with the military. They bought a board and would not let her sign it until she was a full member of the military.
Then they proceeded to fill two boards with signatures and brought them home.
The project exploded when Viola O’Quinn Page, a retired Military Police officer, originally from South Branch, heard about the bench.
Page’s position in the military police required her to organize and lead the repatriation of fallen soldiers coming home on the Highway of Heroes-Trenton to Toronto. She thoroughly understood the importance of the bench how much public awareness it would bring.
Page volunteered to purchase the boards in Ontario and she asked the members of Sgt. Gillam’s unit to sign them. Every member of every rank, in Petawawa, signed so many signatures they covered three boards.
The Military Police in Borden also covered another board with their signatures.
When Page sent the boards, at her own expense, she posted this message to Seymour on social media: “The boards coming to you have special meaning — direct from Craig’s unit and one from the Military Police.”
She expressed thanks to everyone who got behind the effort.
The Commanding Officer of the Dragoon’s Regiment saw how much emotion and respect that this project brought, he ordered a Royal Canadian Dragoon flag be flown from sunrise to sunset in Dragoon Park at Garrison, Petawawa, on April 16, 2019, in honour of Sgt. Craig Gillam for loyal service to Canada and the Royal Canadian Dragoons.
This flag and certificate were sent to the Seymours, and the flag has been since flown it at the monument on Mark Rock Mountain.
Don Gillam, a former member of the Royal Canadian Navy, originally from South Branch, living in Halifax also heard the story of this bench and he wanted to be part of this special project. Gillam purchased a board, had it filled with signatures from that Nova Scotia and had it sent home.
Colin’s first thought for the bench was to take it to the top of the mountain and place it next to the monument. Then he realized that more people would see it and he could tell the story of Sgt. Gilliam and bring awareness to PTSD if he took the bench to different festivals and events.
So far, this bench has been a part of the Run The Rock where sailers of the HMCS St. John’s signed their names on the back of the bench; South Branch Days, Astrolabe Days, Corner Brook with Sgt. Gilliam’s family, and Cape Ray for Tommy Anderson’s PTSD Fundraiser.
The bench will be present at the next Remembrance Day ceremony.
The Seymour’s are very happy to display this bench, which now contains more than 350 signatures, and they get a feeling of respect each time someone stops to read and find known signatures.
“From the time of recutting the trail to the completion of this bench, I have met and learned so much what these veterans and soldiers have endured from fighting in wars to living with PTSD afterwards. I have learned a lot of these veterans come home with invisible scars,” Colin said.
When one looks closely at the memorial bench, you will also see different toonies, a quarter and a Canadian Heroes badge.
The toonies are a series of anniversaries of special events during the wars.
2018- 100 year anniversary of Armistice
2017- Battle of Vimy Ridge
2016-Battle of the Atlantic
2015- In Flanders Field
2014- Wait For Me Daddy reflecting a famous photograph taken during the Second World War.
There is also a Remembrance Day quarter which was produced in 2018.
Colin Seymour donated money to the Canadian Hero’s foundation and he received a Canadian Hero badge in return. He placed this badge in the centre of the first board.