Gull Lake’s Cenotaph park now features a lasting recognition of the sacrifice made by Captain Keith Mirau.
The commemorative plaque was unveiled during a special event on August 9, with the ceremony also the first time the community has been able to gather after Gull Lake Town Council proclaimed every August 9 as Captain Keith Mirau Day.
On August 9, 1974, Captain Mirau was one of two pilots flying a United Nations marked Canadian transport aircraft that was shot down during peacekeeping duties over Damascus, Syria. Ultimately all nine personnel on board were killed, and the tragedy remains the largest loss of Canadian peacekeepers in a single incident. However, this tragedy led to the 2008 establishment of National Peacekeepers’ Day in Canada.
Last Wednesday’s ceremony provided the community of Gull Lake to preserve the memory of one of their own who was killed at the age of 29 during peacekeeping duties.
“It was an easy thing to get behind, especially once you had the history,” explained Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell.
“After we had some discussion we believed that we wanted to do something more. You make proclamations and they’re always good to draw attention to the issues that are being proclaimed. They’re good for the day they’re being proclaimed, or the week, or the month, but sometimes they’re forgotten. And we discussed it we said we want to do more, because we want this to be remembered.”
Mayor Campbell noted that the initiative was started by an email request sent by Tom Frook last August. In that email, Frook hoped that Gull Lake would take steps to help preserve Captain Mirau’s heroic service.
“I believe that it is only fitting that Keith’s hometown recognizes the contribution of all peacekeepers, but especially that of Keith Mirau, and that Gull Lake should be truly proud of him,” Frook’s email noted.
Gull Lake made their proclamation on August 30, 2016, so this past week was the first opportunity they had to formally observe the day. In their proclamation they urge all citizens to recognize the efforts made by all those who serve Canada with honour.
“For the community it’s a visible or tangible reminder of National Peacekeepers’ Day, and I think that’s an important thing.”
The Mirau family was represented at the ceremony by Keith’s brother Neil, who admitted the immediate and extended family sincerely appreciates the observation.
“The rest of the Mirau’s were really grateful and honoured. And my mom would have been terrifically honoured. August 9 was always a very sad day for her, but she came to accept it, and this would have meant a lot for her. So our whole family was very impressed,” Keith Mirau said.
He reflected that the entire community rallied around his family that fateful day in 1974.
“It was something that day. As soon as we knew the house was immediately full, and my Mom and Dad had all kinds of support for as long as they needed it.”
He also pointed out that Keith’s formative years were spent in Gull Lake, and while he wanted to pursue a career in the military, he knew he had the support from the entire community in that decision.
“He was proud to be a Gull Lake person, and it’s nice to see that Gull Lake is proud to have him.”