Every time he has visited the newly placed Soldiers’ Tree Memorial on the Estevan courthouse lawn on Fourth Street, Robert Rooks has ended up talking with other visitors who express interest in the carvings done by chainsaw artist Darren Jones and what the images mean.
“There is a reason for these images,” said Rooks.
“When you walk up from the front, you are met by two soldiers on the lower part of the memorial. On the right, the carving depicts an explosion with one soldier being wounded. There is a military principle that is drilled into every soldier and that is that a soldier and his rifle are one. It’s drilled into you, you never leave your rifle behind.
“The second message is that one soldier is helping the other one out and the intended note is that not all are going home, but if the soldiers help one another, then some of us get to go home,” Rooks said.
Above the soldiers are the Queen’s colours of the South Saskatchewan Regiment(SSR). This regiment’s history dates back to the 1800s and Rooks explained that regimental colours are cherished by those who serve under them. The SSR was retired as a Canadian regiment in the late 1960s and their Queen’s colours and regimental colours were placed in the Estevan Comprehensive School for all to view, shortly after the school opened in 1969.
“On the top of the memorial we see a sailor and an aircraft, which delivers the message that nobody goes into battle without all being engaged. Sailors, airmen, soldiers go into battle together as a coherent group,” said the retired former commanding officer of the local PPCLI Army Cadet pipes and drums .
“Next, we see a solidier resting on his arms, a reverse vigil, and on the reverse side of the memorial there is a grave site with a spray of poppies and two pieces of poetry, one is To the Fallen, a verse well known to the Legion members and another penned by local committee member Lester Hinzman,” said Rooks, noting that Hinzman provided the initiative, along with chainsaw carver Jones, to build the memorial for the community.
The reverse side also depicts the cap and badge of the SSR and a bust of a female air force sergeant, taken from a recruitment poster that noted that women also served so that the men could fight. “Women couldn’t go into combat then like they can now, but they certainly did serve in the military,” said Rooks.
The two benches placed next to the memorial, for the benefit of visitors, depict a First World War soldier and a Second World War sailor. The other bench has a carving of a Second World War pilot officer and a present-day Canadian soldier.
“The present day soldier is taken from an image of Master Warrant Officer Ivan Finstad who is a Sergeant Major currently stationed at Dundurn. We got this courtesy of his parents who are local residents. Ivan is a career soldier who has been in active combat fronts in both Bosnia and Afghanistan and is a member of the PPCLI. So it’s nice to bring a little local recognition to the scene,” said Rooks.
“We need this memorial to help us reflect that if we don’t continue to tell these stories to the next generation, then it gets lost and there are still so many untold stories about the horrors and also the heroism that war brings out,”
“So this memorial’s messages are many, but the overall message is to simply look and think.”