Ten years after being deployed to Afghanistan, Ponoka’s Maury Gratrix laid a wreath in front of the newly unveiled monument honouring Lacombe’s Master Cpl. Byron Greff.
Hundreds of people attended AVIII tank monument’s unveiling at Fairview Cemetery in Lacombe on Saturday.
The monument “is a symbol to all the sacrifices that were made over in Afghanistan and how important that is. It kind of ensures the sacrifices won’t be forgotten,” Gratrix said.
Gratrix rose in the ranks alongside Greff, who was the last Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan. In honour of him and all others who served, Gratrix laid a wreath beside the monument with Greff’s wife Lindsay Greff.
“It was pretty special to be able to do that with Lindsay,” Gratrix said. “My wife and her were very close friends when Byron was around. It’s nice to be able to do that with her.”
While speaking to the crowd during the memorial unveiling ceremony, Lacombe mayor Steve Christie teared up while talking about Greff.
The Greffs were the first family Christie met when his family moved to Lacombe 23 years ago, he said.
“It takes a community to raise a child and Byron was one of the kids. Ever since I’ve known him he was never afraid of anything. For him to be honoured in this way is a huge honour to be a part of,” he said.
As well as paying tribute to Byron Greff, the monument is meant to honour all 40,000 that served and the 162 lives that were lost in the war, Christie added.
A retired captain from Lacombe, Bryce Talsma, also spoke at the ceremony. It was emotional seeing the memorial that honours all those who fought in Afghanistan.
“It’s surprisingly powerful,” he said. “To see something real, something you can put your hands on, a vehicle that meant so much to me when I was in service, it almost brings me to tears.”
It’s been a long road to get this monument to Lacombe, but seeing it set up means a lot, said Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr.
“This is a very important day for the people of Lacombe,” Orr said. “It was a lot of work, paper pushing, approval, permissions and logistics, but to have it here makes this a great day.”