After a year of fundraising and hard work, the restoration of CFB Chilliwack's old saluting base is now complete.
The saluting base, located off Caen Avenue, once served as a platform for prominent military officials to observe marching troops in the Parade Square-now the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) parking lot.
Left to weather over the years, the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society, Retired Sappers Reunion Committee and UFV set out to restore the derelict base as a historical memorial site.
According to Jim Harris, CFB Chilliwack Historical Society president, the project cost $35,000 and was mainly funded through the sale of engraved bricks, which have
been incorporated into the restoration.
With three lines and 16 words per line available, a majority of people usually engraved their name, rank and years of service.
"It's a way of saying I was here, if you will, and a way of saying in memory of," Harris said. "Some of us lost loved ones. .. some of us lost dear friends."
With thousands of people passing through the military base from 1942 to 1997, Harris said retired Sappers and their family members as close as Chilliwack and far as Thailand have shown their support.
"I got to say, the engineer family is a very close knit family, and so were all the people
who served and worked here. It's very heartwarming," he said. "We had 57 years in this area with the community of Chilliwack, so a lot of people from Chilliwack really wantedto see this done."
When the project was $2,500 short of its fundraising goal, Harris put out a plea that was answered by a former trucker who once delivered vehicles to the camp.
"Here's $2,000 to get you going, the family won't let you down," Harris recalled the man saying.
The network of support also extends to current military personnel, as local military engineers, the 192 Construction Engineer Flight and 54 Engineer Field Squadron, performed a majority of the labour and use of heavy equipment.
"We' ve had great support from the community," Harris said.
CFB Chilliwack was known as "Home of the Royal Canadian Engineers," but also housed the Canadian Forces Officer Candidate school and support trades. The base was the second largest employer in Chilliwack, paying millions of dollars worth of wages monthly.
Revamped with a fresh coat of paint, new landscaping, commemorative plaques and metal fixtures shaped into the word "ubique-which means "everywhere" in Latin, a Royal Canadian Engineer motto-the saluting base is ready for its unveiling ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which boasts live music, a marching parade and the presence of high-ranking military officials.
The memorial is situation on Caen Avenue south of the Canada Lands Presentation Building and north of the UFV parking lot. A reception will follow at the former Officers Mess at 24 Normandy Drive, now the Canada Lands Presentation Centre.
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