Remarks at the Starfighter Memorial Dedication
Trenton, Ontario, 19 June, 2008 by Capt. (Ret’d) D.S. Fenton
Distinguished dignitaries, fellow aviators, ladies and gentlemen:
It is very gratifying to see so many of you gathered here to pay tribute to our fallen comrades-in-arms.
It is especially heart-warming to see so many family members of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty and who we honour today.
Before I begin my remarks, there are a number of people who must be recognized for their parts in making this event possible.
First and foremost is our first webmaster, Ron Russell, who conceived the idea of a Starfighter Memorial and coordinated discussions between the Starfighter Association and the RCAF Museum, as it was then known, leading to an agreement for the construction and placing of the Monument on the grounds of the Museum. In addition, he and his Committee have worked tirelessly over the past year or so to organize this function and bring it to fruition.
The fact that we were able to complete the necessary fund-raising for the construction of the Monument is due in large part to the efforts of Bob Elder. In connection with his organizing of the last Starfighter Association reunion, he was able to negotiate an arrangement with the travel agency whereby a portion of the price of each ticket was refunded to the Starfighter Community Support Fund, a non-profit society that he organized to handle funds raised to benefit the Starfighter community. This fund paid for approximately one-half of the construction costs for the Monument, as well as a generous contribution toward the costs of this dedication ceremony.
And finally, a heartfelt thank you to those members of the Canadian Starfighter Association who gave so generously of their own funds to raise approximately $15,000 toward the cost of a monument to honour their fallen friends and loved ones. Your names are too numerous to mention today, but you know who you are and you can be justifiably proud of your contribution.
This Monument is the third in a series dedicated to Aviators who lost their lives fighting what was known as the “Cold War”. The Sabre Pilots and the All Weather Fighter Association also have monuments in this beautiful setting. Today, that war has become a forgotten war to many Canadians and many, with the acuity of hindsight, would call it a “Phony War”, since no declaration of war was made, no cities were destroyed in massive bombing raids and no large armies fought to gain or defend territory. But, to those of us who were there, it was very real. Every time the “Hooter” went off, we wondered if this time it was the real thing and the communist hordes were crossing the Iron Curtain with the intent of conquering Central Europe. We trained very hard and very realistically for that eventuality and perhaps it is due in some part to those efforts that Europe enjoyed what is arguably the longest continuous period of peace in its long and combative history.
But those efforts and that peace were not without cost. Although no shots were fired in anger, a great many young men and women lost their lives in the service of their Country and in the effort to maintain World Peace. They were the “crème de la crème” of our society and certainly the ones that I knew were a great bunch of Guys.
In patriotic speeches and articles, we frequently are told that the fallen “gladly gave their lives for their Country”. Now, we all know that that is a load of hogwash! I don’t know anyone who died gladly and, as General Patton said, it was our job to make sure the other son-of-a-bitch died for his Country. But we all knew that death was always just a little slip away in the job we chose as our Profession and that was part of what made it so special. You had to be on your “A” game every time you fired up that magnificent steed and we were all just cocky enough to believe that it wouldn’t happen to us, ‘cause we were just too damned good! Some of us were wrong, but I doubt if any of them would have given up the chance to do what we did, even if they had known what fate had in store for them. Such is the nature of young men and the love of flight.
In past wars, a grateful nation has erected monuments to those whose lives were sacrificed in the pursuit of their Government’s goals. Perhaps for this, “Our War”, it is fitting that it be left to those of us who knew them best to honour their sacrifice; for we will never forget what they did and what they gave up so the rest of us could remain free. May God bless them all and may they rest in peace.