Wall's support welcomed

Wall

Allan Jones, second from left, the chair of a local group planning to build a wall of remembrance for Canadians who died in wars, meets with Canadian Tire associate dealers Dan Gostlin, left, Rick Smith and Jason Derbyshire at the Bath Road outlet in Kingston on Wednesday as they prepare for a coming military appreciation day at their stores. (Michael Lea/The Whig-Standard)

An idea that was hatched over coffee a couple of years ago will once again show members of the military how much their service is appreciated.

The three Canadian Tire outlets in Kingston will again be joining forces to host a Military Appreciation Day on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The day will see representatives of the Canadian Forces, veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Legion at each store to talk with the public and educate them on what they do.

Rick Smith, the associate dealer at the Canadian Tire store at 59 Bath Rd., said the original idea came from his wife, Angela.

"We were just talking over coffee and she said we really should be doing something in Kingston to recognize what the military means to our community," he said.

She suggested a military day at the store and he thought it would be "a great idea."

So he called up the owners of the two other Canadian Tire outlets in town and they decided to make it a major event to recognize what the military means to the Kingston community.

"And everything just went from there," Smith said. "That was just out of the blue. And the rest is just history."

This is the second time the three stores have combined for the event.

"We are just showing our respect for anyone associated with the military and that can be anyone from the legion to veterans to current members of CFB Kingston," Smith said.

All three stores are committed to making it a special day to "show our complete admiration and respect for the military."

He said the entire Canadian Tire corporation supports Canada's military, and hosting an appreciation day is a way of "showing our respect for what they do day in and day out."

Dan Gostlin, the associate dealer at the Division Street Canadian Tire store, said the day would give the public a chance to see what the military is all about and also show their appreciation for their service.

"The various arms of the military do lots of great stuff for Canadians and the country in general. It gives us an opportunity to say thank you."

He said the three stores like to work together, and celebrating the military seemed an appropriate thing to do, "to make sure everyone gets the message of how important they are to us."

Jason Derbyshire, associate dealer of the Cataraqui Canadian Tire, said the corporation has always had a strong relationship with the Forces.

"When the three of us got together, it was just really our way of saying thank you to the military community," he said. "We are all excited to be part of it. It's one of our favourite things to do. As Canadians, we should be very grateful to people that stand in the front lines and keep us safe."

Even though Canadians are no longer fighting in Afghanistan, we should still remember their service, he said.

"They are ready, willing and able. Our level of freedom that we have today is in great part due to those people that protect us."

The day will also be a fundraiser for the National Wall of Remembrance Association and its efforts to construct a permanent monument to all the Canadians who died in war, dating back to the War of 1812.

The three men kicked off the event early with a donation Wednesday of $5,000 towards the National Wall of Remembrance Association.

The three stores will also donate a portion of each sale on Saturday to the association.

The proposed Wall of Remembrance is actually a wall in name only, explained Allan Jones, the chairman of the group building it.

The group was formed in 2010 and was hoping to have a shovel in the ground this year, but delays have slowed things down.

Part of the problem has been fundraising, Jones said.

The group is not an official charity, so it can't give out tax receipts. It is applying to get charitable organization status.

"We have sponsors that have promised huge donations if we can give them a receipt," Jones said.

It will eventually be a single-storey building located next to the Military Communications and Electronics Museum on Canadian Forces Base Kingston.

As well as having a physical presence, it is intended to have a virtual component that contains profiles on every one of the 117,000 Canadians who fell in battle from Afghanistan back to the War of 1812.

A competition to pick a design for the monument was held back in 2014. Three finalists were picked from submissions by students from St. Lawrence College, Loyalist College, Algonquin College, Queen's University and Royal Military College.

The winner was Rosalind Chow, an architectural technology student at Loyalist.

"They were beautiful, very nice designs," Jones said.

But the size of the building had to be reduced, so Chow was asked to take elements from all three top designs and produce a new concept.

"She came up with a beautiful design and that is now the one we are going to use," Jones said.

When finished, it will cover 3,000 square feet, with one wall featuring a waterfall, behind which will be a Canadian flag built from ceramic poppies.

There will be seating around the room and monitors with computer terminals so visitors can look up the name of their loved one to find their profile.

"All you will need to know is a name, and everything we know about that person will come up," Jones said.

Jones explained there will not be a physical wall on which names are engraved in granite, such as the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.

At 117,000, "obviously there are too many names," he said.

"We are hoping to put a shovel in the ground next year," he continued.

The group had originally picked a site right next to the communications and electronics museum but had to change the location.

"We found there was too much infrastructure under the ground. It was too complicated to build over the top of it," Jones said.

So it was moved to the other side of the museum parking lot, where it will become part of a proposed "museum village" -- to include museums celebrating other units on the base -- that is slated for the site.

"Ours will hopefully be the first to go there."

The virtual component was originally to be inside the museum, but that, too, has changed, Jones said.

Now it will be part of a separate building.

He said a change in command on the base has complicated ongoing negotiations, but he plans to brief the new commanding officer next week.

Meanwhile, the group is still raising money to pay for it all.

"Our fundraising is going OK. It is not as good as we hoped," he said.

Close to $1 million has been raised so far.

"We hope to have $2 million before we actually start building."

The National Wall of Remembrance Association website, www.worassociation.ca, has a link to take people to the names of the Canadian fallen.

"We are building that website as we speak," Jones said. "To get 117,000 names, that's a big project."

A team from the Wall of Remembrance Association is doing the research.

The association site also has an email address to which people can send in information if they don't find their loved one already listed.

The profiles will include where they died, the name of their unit, where they are from, and any other personal information that can be found.

He has even received phone calls at home from people who want their relatives included.

"We are working all the time on it," Jones said.

There is no firm date yet for the monument's official opening.

An architect still needs to be hired to produce the architectural drawings.

"We hope to have one in place early in the year."

Then, contractors will have to be found. Jones is hoping to use his contacts in the construction industry to find some who will do the work pro bono.

Master Corp. Bryan Docs, an army communication information systems specialist who handles all forms of communication when units are deployed, was at the Bath Road Canadian Tire Wednesday morning to scout out the location prior to Saturday's event.

A reservist, he has been in the military for 13 years.

"It's awesome that the corporate people want to take time to recognize what we do," he said.

"We don't ask for it. We serve the country, so we do what Canada wants us to do."

mlea@postmedia.com