A memorial flower garden in honour of Sub-Lieutenant (SLt) Abbigail Cowbrough was officially dedicated on July 30, 2021 at the Veteran Farm Project in Sweet’s Corner, N.S. — a veteran-run organization that grows farm produce for food packages delivered weekly to veterans and families in need.
With about 25 attendees gathered under tents during heavy rain, farm owner Jessica Miller began the ceremony by welcoming the guests — including SLt Cowbrough’s father, Sailor 1st Class (S1) Shane Cowbrough, other military personnel, Kody Blois, Member of Parliament for the Kings-Hants area, and representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion.
Describing the Veteran Farm Project and how it has evolved into a healing space for women veterans who volunteer at the farm, Ms. Miller said the idea of a creating garden in SLt Cowbrough’s memory seemed a natural fit.
SLt Cowbrough died on April 29, 2020, when the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter she was on crashed into the sea off the coast of Greece, while returning to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Fredericton after a training flight as part of Operation Reassurance.
Reflecting on her own military experience as a former medic on board Navy ships, serving 21 years with the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Miller said she felt a kinship with SLt Cowbrough and was deeply affected by the news of her death.
“I had sailed those seas and I had flown in those helicopters. I knew what it was like to be there and I felt, as a woman, this would be a special place for her to feel safe and to be honoured,” Ms. Miller said. “This is a space for anyone who wants to come and reflect and enjoy nature; a place to think and remember her… a beautiful woman.”
Unveiling the wooden sign to officially open the memorial garden, S1 Cowbrough noted the carved image of a bird in flight, saying it holds special significance as both he and his daughter had matching tattoos of that same image.
“During Fredericton’s deployment they were able to get on shore before COVID took that away from them. Abbigail visited the town of Chania in Greece, which is where I had that tattoo done on my chest, and she got the same tattoo,” he said.
Following the ceremony, S1 Cowbrough reflected on how memorials such as this, and the many other tributes in his daughter’s honour, speak to the kind of person she was.
“Everybody thinks their kid is special. I thought that, for sure, but it’s not until you see how much of an impact she had on so many people in such a short amount of time. She just had such amazing drive and energy,” he said.
Sadly, no officers saw fit to attend the ceremony; Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Lynn Cassidy, who attended the ceremony with Canadian Forces Base Halifax Base Chief, Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Alena Mondelli, took an opportunity between rain showers to tour the farm.
“It’s so impressive what they’re doing here and the amount of work and thought that has gone into all of this,” she said. “This garden will be a special place for people to come and remember… it’s simply beautiful.”