This morning, 22 Wing CFB North Bay, honoured Master Corporal Jean-Pierre Legault by naming the 22 Wing Fitness and Wellness Centre after him. Members of Legault’s family attended, as did much of the base.
“It’s an honour to have him remembered,” said Marlaine Legault, Jean-Pierre’s wife. “It’s been 28 years, but sometimes, it’s almost like it was yesterday.”
Legault, born in 1960, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in March of 1982. He became a Communication Technician the following year. Later in his career he was stationed in Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, working with the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron of the United States Air Force.
On September 22, 1995, while traveling in a E-3B Sentry aircraft on a survey mission, the plane collided with a flock of geese that struck both left engines. The damage caused the plane to enter an uncontrolled left roll, and as this occurred shortly after takeoff, the left wing soon struck trees sending the plane out of control.
Twenty-four people lost their lives that day. Jean-Pierre Legault was buried at the Saint Enfant Jesus Cemetery in Pointe-aux-Trembles, in Quebec.
“He was always there for us,” Legault emphasized, “he was a nice person who always wanted to help. He was a happy person.”
Jean-Pierre loved sports, especially hockey, and was captain of the team while he was stationed in Alaska. It’s fitting that the 22 Wing chose the athletic center to name after him.
From this day forward, the building will be known as the Master Corporal J.J.P. Legault Fitness and Wellness Centre.
“He was good at all types of sports,” his wife said, especially racket sports and hockey. He also ran and curled – “he did it all.”
Jean-Pierre’s older brother, Michel Legault – who also served – was proud to see the new sign unveiled, bearing his brother’s name. The family did not ask for, nor did they expect such a commemoration. “It’s absolutely huge,” Michel said.
“I hope everyone in the area who comes to the building will think of the military people” serving our country.
Colonel Richard Jolette, 22 Wing Commander, explained that Jean-Pierre Legault did not serve on his base, but he did train there for a time. Also, the main operation on the base is already named after Sgt. David L. Pitcher, who was the other Canadian who perished in that accident.
“And we felt a good connection here in North Bay to have another building named in honour of Master Corporal Legault. And because he had such a connection to sport and fitness, this was a perfect fit.”
To this day, that tragic accident has left its mark on many. “It was in 1995, and its still felt today,” Colonel Jolette said.
Lest we forget.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca