Friday, 18 August 2017 05:15

Commemorative plaque in Gull Lake honours Cdn. peacekeeper

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Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell (at left) and Gordon Kozroski, the president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Gull Lake, unveil the plaque in memory of Capt. Keith Mirau and other fallen Canadian peacekeepers, Aug. 9. Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell (at left) and Gordon Kozroski, the president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Gull Lake, unveil the plaque in memory of Capt. Keith Mirau and other fallen Canadian peacekeepers, Aug. 9. Matthew Liebenberg

A commemorative plaque was unveiled in Gull Lake on National Peacekeepers’ Day to recognize the sacrifice of Capt. Keith Mirau, who grew up in the town and died 43 years ago when a Canadian military aircraft was shot down while on peacekeeping duties in the Middle East.

A ceremony took place at the cenotaph in Gull Lake on Aug. 9, which was also the inaugural “Capt. Keith Mirau Day” in the town. The plaque was unveiled by Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell and Gordon Kozroski, the president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Gull Lake.
Campbell spoke during the event about town council’s decision to proclaim “Capt. Keith Mirau Day” and to erect a plaque. He also read a message of appreciation from the Mirau family.
The ceremony concluded with the laying of a wreath by Kozroski at the plaque.
“This is a great event,” Kozroski said afterwards. “The Legion supports any effort to recognize people who have served their country honourably and to have a local boy who served and also made the supreme sacrifice, is something that the town should recognize. So I’m very pleased that the Town of Gull Lake has taken these steps.”
Gull Lake town council decided to proclaim Aug. 9 as Capt. Keith Mirau Day after a former resident, Tom Frook, submitted a request to council to give recognition to the Canadian Forces pilot who grew up in the town.
According to Campbell, the councillors felt a need to do more than just proclaim National Peacekeepers' Day as Capt. Keith Mirau Day in Gull Lake.
“We do proclamations occasionally and proclamations are good for the day, the week or the month, and then they kind of drift off and people kind of forget about them over time,” he said. “We really felt that we wanted to have something that was going to be tangible, something that we could have as a visual representation, and we thought no better place than the cenotaph. Actually, that idea came out of the meeting within minutes of doing the proclamation that we had to do more, and we all felt that way.”
The Town of Gull Lake consulted with the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Gull Lake on the proclamation as well as the location of the commemorative plaque at the cenotaph.
“We came to them first with the proclamation and let them review it, because we wanted that reviewed,” he said. “Then when we came up with the plaque, then we wanted to see if it would be possible that they will allow that to be at the cenotaph. We weren’t sure how that would take place. So we again went back to them with the idea and the wording and to make sure that everything was going to be good with them to be able to move forward with it.”
The unveiling ceremony was attended by Neil Mirau, a younger brother of Capt. Keith Mirau.
Neil and his wife Heather came from Coaldale, Alta., to be at the event.
Keith’s older brother stays on Vancouver Island and his widow lives in Ottawa.
“She’s very happy that it’s occurring and was pleased that we could get here, and Garth, my older brother, really wanted to be here as well,” Neil said. “Mom and dad of course passed away, but it means a lot to Keith’s widow, his sons, certainly Garth and I and Heather and Judy, Garth’s wife, and to our kids. ... Keith has a special place in our family, not because of his death, which was tragic, but because he was a pilot, he served his country, and I think he did our family proud.”
Keith Bradley Mirau was born in Swift Current in October 1944, the second son of Arnold and Hilda Mirau. The family moved to Gull Lake in 1951, where Keith grew up and completed high school.
“Keith was eight years older than I am,” Neil said. “So I always looked up to him and as far as I can remember, he always wanted to be in the military. So he became a bit of a hero figure for me, especially when he was a pilot and he flew fancy dancy aircraft and one time flew over the town in one of the aircraft.”
Keith enlisted with the military in February 1963, only a few months after his 18th birthday. He went to Ontario to start flight training and he served until his death in 1974.
Neil recalled the time when his brother flew over Gull Lake while he was a flight instructor at the Moose Jaw air base.
“He screamed over Gull Lake in his small jet, about quarter to nine in the morning, real low altitude, real loud, flapped his wings up and down as he went by, and I was really proud of that,” he said. “The noise impressed the whole town, I guess.”
Keith died while serving with Canadian peacekeepers as part of a United Nations task force that was supervising a ceasefire between Egypt and Israel. He was the first officer on a routine flight by United Nations Flight 51 on Aug. 9, 1974. The Canadian military transport aircraft received clearance to enter Syrian airspace, but shortly afterwards the aircraft was hit by three surface to air missiles that were fired from a Syrian airfield.
All nine Canadian peacekeepers on the aircraft were killed and this incident remains the greatest single loss of Canadian lives during a peacekeeping mission.
Neil remembers Keith as the more studious and serious one of the three brothers.
“Right up until the day he died, I tried to follow his pattern of being a good person, because he was really a good guy.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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