An Amherst RCMP officer killed on a New Brunswick roadside will be honoured this weekend in Regina at the RCMP Academy.
Const. Frank Deschenes was struck and killed by an SUV last Sept. 12 while helping a motorist change a tire at the side of the road on the Trans Canada Highway near Memramcook, N.B.
“This weekend is considered memorial weekend, which is the second Sunday in September. RCMP members will gather in Regina at the home of the RCMP depot and pay honour to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Nova Scotia RCMP Sgt. Major Karen Holmes said Friday. “Regina is the home of the Mounties and every Mountie has been here for their training. This is where it all started for them.”
Const. Deschenes’ named will the 239th flag added to the tablet. His name is the only one being added this year.
The memorial dates back to the 1930 when the commissioner of the day wanted to do something to honour the memories of officers who died while on duty. At first, memorial plaques were put inside the chapel at the training centre.
“Unfortunately, as you can imagine there were too many plaques to go on the wall so instead they erected a cenotaph with stone tablets on which the names of those who were killed in the line of duty are inscribed,” she said.
Holmes said it’s a very solemn ceremony and often brings the families of fallen members honoured in previous years back to Regina. As somber as it is, she said, it’s also an awakening for those in attendance so they never forget those who lost their lives.
“Part of the process includes the RCMP guidon which is a consecrated flag the RCMP has that has our battle honours on it. It is brought out for this specific event,” she said. “It’s very important we remember our legacy, those who have fallen and those who have gone before us.”
Holmes said the ceremony is something the RCMP has to do because “no one can move forward without remembering their past. We need to understand things that happened operationally and what our members went through and how much they sacrifice for us to be in the position we are now and for us to use that information to continue to move forward, to modernize and to continue to serve the Canadian public.”
She said it’s emotional for her because she has troopmates and cadets she trained who are memorialized on the cenotaph.
“It’s like a family, you’re not supposed to lose someone you trained. It’s like a parent in that you’re not supposed to lose your child,” she said. “It is hard, but it’s also part of the healing process.”
She said there is an honour troop attending the ceremony from Nova Scotia, some of whose members either trained for worked with Deschenes.
The loss of Deschenes has been deeply felt by RCMP and other police officers across Canada, but it also comes with the understanding that anyone who goes into law enforcement knowingly faces danger potentially every day.
“It’s truly a calling. When things are going bad emergency responders are the ones running toward the problem when most people are running away,” she said. “Everyone on that wall of honour was doing the job they were called to do and happily and readily did every single day of their career.”
The ceremony, she said, is also for family members to know they are still part of the RCMP community. She also said it’s an important ceremony for civilians in that it provides a formal recognition of those who lose their lives protecting Canadians.