One of Canada’s most decorated aboriginal soldiers will soon be honoured with a new memorial.
Thanks to local veteran Donald Mackey, Manitoba’s Sgt. Tommy Prince will be remembered with a shiny new monument replacing the one at Sgt. Tommy Prince MM Veterans Park, which has been vandalized repeatedly in recent years.
Mackey has dedicated the past 16 years of his life to paying homage to Prince, while at the same time caring for his elderly wife and their daughter, both of whom have serious health problems.
Now, almost 81, the chairman of the Sgt. Tommy Prince MM Memorial Fund is looking to "wrap things up" so he can care for his family.
"It’s been challenging," he says now. "I never thought I’d be spending 16 years doing this. But I’m proud of what I’ve done."
Mackey says a documentary about Prince, who is also said to be the great-great grandson of Chief Peguis, focused on his downward spiral into alcoholism after the war. The film spurred him into action. "I was angry. I knew him. I knew he was a damn good soldier."
Mackey started in 1997. A cadet corps was set up and named in Prince’s honour. Murals were painted on Sgt. Tommy Prince Street. A park was dedicated to him at Battery Street and Selkirk Avenue. Displays were installed at Sgt. Tommy Prince School at Brokenhead First Nation, where Prince grew up, and at Sir Sam Steele Legion on Salter Street.
The new monument, crafted at Eden Memorials, "will have an actual picture of Tommy Prince, an engraved eagle, a dream catcher," Mackey said.
This newer tribute will be placed at Freight House, Door No. 1, at 200 Isabel St. where the No. 553 Sgt. Tommy Prince Cadet Corps is located.
A boulder with an engraved plaque will replace the old monument that was vandalized at Veterans Park. Mackey estimates that another $3,000 may be required for this.
At present, 12 boulders placed around a circular plaza at the park symbolize 12 warriors, and 12 trees behind them stand for each of Prince’s medals, he says.
"The 13th boulder will represent Tommy Prince," Mackey adds.
Mackey hopes to have both monuments in place in September.
Prince served in the Second World War and in the Korean War, receiving many medals and honours, including being presented with the Military Medal from King George VI.
To donate, contact the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Inc., 119 Sutherland Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2W 3C9. Tax receipts will be issued.