Bravery Park celebrates grand opening with Lieutenant Governor

September 9, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Just north of the Alder Recreation Centre sits a newly opened park, created to honour the struggles and sacrifices that Canadian Forces experience in their efforts to promote peace in Canada and around the world.

Bravery Park, which had its official grand opening ceremony last Friday (Sept. 3), was inspired by the life and service of Cpl. Matthew McCully, who served as a member of Canada’s elite Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, responsible for training the Afghan National forces.

Cpl. McCully stepped on an improvised explosive device, while conducting a joint Afghan-Canadian foot patrol west of Kandahar, on May 25, 2007. He passed away not only trying to protect his country, but training Afghan soldiers to protect their own.  

Following the death of Cpl. McCully, his mother, Valerie McGrady and sister, Shannon McGrady, used their grief as fuel for a vision of creating a space to honour Canadian soldiers.

“Canada does an incredible job of honouring our fallen soldiers. Our family has received the utmost respect and support since Matthew’s passing,” said Shannon McGrady. “However, many Canadians remains unaware of the daily sacrifices our troops make in service to Canada. They sacrifice months, even years, with loved ones to complete humanitarian and environmental missions all over the world. Some of these missions expose them to extreme poverty and danger, often having a lasting impact on their mental health. Bravery Park will help foster a culture of support so that our soldiers know they are supported both on and off the battleground.” 

Bravery Park features a statue of a Canadian solider with two Afghan children, a memorial stone honouring Canadian Forces personnel, traditional medicine garden, tempered glass art, a children’s playground, interpretive plaques, and donor dedications. It is a peaceful and educational space where the realities of war, bravery, freedom and healing are embedded in every aspect of the park. 

A fundraising campaign over several years raised more than $200,000 and saw the creation of a Bravery Park Committee. The Town of Orangeville donated the land, staff assistance, and a $5,000 community matching grant.

For the Sept. 3 ceremony where the grand opening of Bravery Park took place, there was a military parade, Snowbirds fly-by, and attendance by Canadian Forces representatives. The grand opening featured keynote speaker Jody Mitic, a retired elite sniper who served in Afghanistan. Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor, The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, was also on hand to inspect the troops and officially open the park, with Dufferin-Caledon MP Kyle Seeback, and Solicitor General, MPP Sylvia Jones, Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown and other dignitaries who were in attendance.  

“Bravery Park is a beautiful place to pay tribute to our peacekeepers. A place that allows for commemoration of the past, for coming together and healing, and that also provides a path for the future,” said Dowdeswell.

“All of us must be encouraged to reflect on everyone, throughout the years, who served to protect us, not only in times of conflict, but any time assistance was needed – in our long-term care homes during this pandemic, during climate-related disasters like wildfires and floods, and serving on United Nations peacekeeping missions. So much needs to be done to support veterans and their families both while they serve, and afterwards. It is time for us to be there for those who have been here for us.”

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