June 6, 2024 is the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord, and part of the D-Day commemoration ceremonies was the unveiling of an eight-foot bronze statue depicting a Canadian soldier charging Juno Beach. 

The statue was officially unveiled today, Wednesday, June 5, at Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse at la Place des Canadiens. It represents every man from Saskatchewan who served with the unit then known as the Regina Rifle Regiment, and was sculpted by Don Begg of Cochrane, Alberta. 

Begg was on hand for the unveiling ceremony, along with former members of the Royal Regina Rifles, and Laura Ross — Saskatchewan’s minister of Parks, Culture, and Recreation. 

"This statue has travelled thousands of kilometres to be unveiled as part of the 80th anniversary of D-Day celebrations," Ross said in a statement from the provincial government.  

"The Royal Regina Rifles have a proud history, and our government is honoured to have supported them in commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Regiment's sacrifices during the Second World War." 

The Government of Saskatchewan provided $40,000 in support of a D-Day 80th anniversary Tour of Honour by the Royal Regina Rifles Trust. 

The Regina Rifle Regiment landed in the first wave on Juno Beach as part of the Normandy D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Nicknamed "The Johns", the regiment was made up of young men from across the province, including members of Peepeekisis First Nation — the Royal Regina Rifles Trust held a commemorative ceremony on Peepeekisis Cree Nation in April.  

Over the course of World War II, 458 soldiers of the Regina Rifle Regiment were killed, including 108 casualties on D-Day itself. The names of those soldiers are engraved into the statue’s base. 

Moose Jaw’s own Lt. Col. (ret’d) Ed Staniowski traveled to Normandy for the ceremony. Staniowski was one of the lead planners of the project. 

“It might be the Regina Rifles Regiment, as it was known during the war, and the Royal Regina Rifles, as they are known now, but it’s more than just Regina,” Staniowski said. “It’s all of Saskatchewan. 

“There were troops, D Company of the Regina Rifles, that were from Prince Albert, 120 men from Prince Albert. There was North Battleford, it had a contingent of folks that joined up. And all across the prairies. I’ve met folks that came across from North Dakota and joined the Rifles back in the day.” 

Staniowski spent nearly 30 years in the Canadian Armed Forces following 10 years as a professional ice hockey player. Since retirement, he has immersed himself in military history. 

“When you hear those stories and how close it was and how intense it was, there’s a fear for me that some of that’s going to get lost now, because we don’t have that connection as much as we used to,” he noted. 

“For 80 years, the only indication that the Regina Rifle Regiment landed at Courseulles-sur-Mer as part of D-Day (was) a rather non-descript plaque on the sea wall at Courseulles-sur-Mer — the first village to be liberated during the landings. 

“(This statue) will be a permanent monument, in Normandy, for hopefully generations to come.”