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Library dedication honours fallen soldier

Natasha Lucas, son Matthew, daughter MacKenzie, and principal and reservist Kirk Smith display the plaque that will hang in the Octagon Pond Elementary School library in honour of the late Sgt. Donald Lucas
Natasha Lucas, son Matthew, daughter MacKenzie, and principal and reservist Kirk Smith display the plaque that will hang in the Octagon Pond Elementary School library in honour of the late Sgt. Donald Lucas - Sam McNeish

Octagon Pond Elementary names its library for Sgt. Donald Lucas

“Take two minutes, would you mind?

It’s a pittance of time,

For the boys and the girls who went over.

In peace may they rest,

May we never forget why they died.

It’s a pittance of time.”

These words, sung by Newfoundland and Labrador singer/songwriter Terry Kelly, served as the soundtrack for the life of a Paradise man, gone too soon.

Students at Octagon Pond Elementary and a host of dignitaries on hand for the Remembrance Day service hosted by the school watched as the life of Sgt. Donald Lucas was played out through images shown on a big screen depicting his life, both military and otherwise.

Lucas, of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, was one of six soldiers killed while on a mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 8, 2007.

He was killed when the light-amoured military vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb west of Kandahar on Easter Sunday.

His life of service and sacrifice was poignantly reflected on Thursday as the library at Octagon Pond Elementary School was dedicated in his honour.

On hand for the ceremony was the entire school community, which gathered for the Remembrance Day service, and the family and friends of Lucas, including his widow Natasha and his children, daughter MacKenzie and son Matthew.

During the ceremony, a plaque was unveiled, and a sign at the back of the library that reads “Sgt. Donald Lucas Commons.” In addition, the family was presented with a personal version of the plaque to have for their home.

On hand for the ceremony were military representatives from various locations in Atlantic Canada, parents of the students, who were honoured with Peacekeeping Awards by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans of Newfoundland and Labrador, and politicians.

A message sent through his former base in Gagetown, N.B., from friend and comrade Col. Alex Ruff spoke volumes for the type of man and soldier Lucas was.

Lt.-Col. Sean French of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment delivered the message on behalf of Ruff.

“I want to commend the community of Paradise for honouring Sgt. Lucas. He was a role model for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces and his memory still drives me today. I think of him often. He went to make the world a safer place. Newfoundland has a strong history of service and paying the cost in that service. We don’t send regrets, we send our fathers and sons and husbands and daughters into service,” Ruff said through French.

Lucas, 31, was one of 158 Canadians who made the supreme sacrifice for his country in the Middle East.

He was born and raised in St. John’s, and was the youngest child of Ella and Fred Lucas.

He started his career with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment before transferring to the Regular Force and 2nd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment.

“Honour is a big word for military,” James Butler said in addressing those gathered in the library.

“Donnie was a husband and father first. He put everything into that, as well as being a soldier. Donnie inspired me,” he added.

Butler paused for a second to compose himself before turning to school principal Kirk Smith, a reservist member with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

“Sir, you have done a really good job remembering a really good man.”

Tony Stack, director of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District and a retired brigadier-general, said a library is the heart of a school and it is fitting this one has the name of a great husband and father attached to it.

It is a vital space that he said would forever honour a great Canadian, family man, husband and father.

“This is a wonderful thing you have done for your school community, honouring the legacy of Sgt. Donald Lucas,” Stack said.

“Kirk (Smith) said we could have had a cast of a thousand here today and this is a testament to the man, husband and soldier Donnie was,” he added.

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