Steve and Leah Oliver
Stephen Alexander Oliver and Leah Jennine Oliver were both serving in the Armed Forces when they met in Gagetown, New Brunswick in 2001.
Steve had completed a tour of duty in Bosnia and they both valued Canada's history as a peacekeeping nation and hoped to contribute to humanity through participation in peacekeeping missions.
Steve and Leah died in a tragic automobile accident traveling home to see their families. Both were on Christmas leave from Canadian Forces Base Edmonton where they served as Combat Engineers.
After the accident, as a memorial to these two young soldiers, a trust fund was established in their name to help the school in Bosnia that Steve had spent some of his free time rebuilding while on his tour in Bosnia.
Stephen Alexander Oliver
Stephen Alexander Oliver was born in Reading, England, on February 6th, 1981. His family moved to Calgary the following year where Steve went to school and was involved in many sports such as soccer and karate. At David Thompson Junior High he took up music, playing the tuba in the school band and then the bass in a jazz band throughout High School.
Outside of school he joined a band called Formula 47. Steve was popular at school, making friends easily and always ready to lend a hand and share a laugh but also ready to stand up for himself and friends. Steve was never happier then when he had his electric bass and friends around.
After high school, Steve had already set his sights on the Army and joined the Canadian Army Reserves in the King's Own Calgary Regiment. He then trained for and deployed to Bosnia for seven months with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
It was here that Steve saw the devastation that land mines caused and decided that upon his return to Canada he would enlist in the regular forces in the Combat Engineers. He took a Combat Engineers course at Gagetown, NB, and became a qualified operator of an "Aardvark", a joint service flail unit for the removal of land mines.
While at Gagetown, he met Leah Jennine Oliver, who amazingly had the same surname. She became the love of his life. Luckily, they were both posted to Edmonton.
Steve’s band, Formula 47
"Thursday" (lyrics by Stephen Oliver): "Sunshine, hang your head today.There’s nothing more for you to say. I know it hurts when nothing goes as planned, but I think I’ll understand today. This heart won’t fall apart on me. When you’re born to run you’re gonna skin your knees. If I ever miss a chance to make you smile maybe then I’ll rest a while and bleed.
If you’re running scared don’t leave me unprepared, I’ll go anywhere. I won’t hesitate, I will stay awake, and wait for you to say… Let’s leave. I cannot speak your name, I know you feel the same. So thoroughly ensnared upon your soul, I’ve lost control of my restraint."
Leah Jennine Oliver
Leah Jennine Oliver was born In New Westminster, British Columbia on February 12th, 1981 and grew up in Kamloops. She graduated from Kamloops Senior Secondary in the French Immersion program where she was active in many sports including field hockey, judo, skiing, swimming, soccer and wrestling. She excelled at wrestling, placing at both the provincial and national levels. Leah was also active in drama and studied violin and piano. She also was an enthusiastic volunteer. Leah had a great love of animals and was a compassionate person always ready to help others.
In the spring of 1999, Leah joined the Canadian Forces as a Reserve Infantry soldier with the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Kamloops. She transferred to the Regular Force in 2001, training as a Combat Engineer in Gagetown, NB, where she met Steve and they began sharing their lives together. Leah was proud of her role in the Military and valued its challenges and excitement.
Leah completed the Combat Diver's Preliminary course, a demanding course that few undertake and fewer finish. It was an impressive accomplishment. She valued Canada's history as a peacekeeping nation and hoped to contribute through participation in peacekeeping missions.
On December 15th , 2002, as they headed to Kamloops for Christmas with their families, Steve Oliver and Leah Oliver died in a motor vehicle accident. As a memorial to these two fine young soldiers, the families got support from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment to help the school in Bosnia that Steve had spent his free time rebuilding.
The Oliver School
Steve was on tour in Bosnia in 1999 with the King’s Own Calgary Regiment (as a member of 2 PPCLI Battle Group). During their spare time, he and other members of the Canadian army helped to restore an old building to become a school for local children.
After Steve and Leah’s death, funds were raised by friends, relatives and various Calgary corporations to supply the school with desks and school supplies to bring back education to the town of Lajsa, approximately 20km east of Velika Kladusa.
The school was dedicated to the memory of Steve and Leah Oliver on March 21st, 2002.
Combat Engineers are members of the Military Engineer's branch of the Canadian Forces. Their job is to ensure that Canadian soldiers can live, move and fight on the battlefield and that enemy troops are prevented from moving effectively on their front.
The Canadian Engineer Corps was created in 1903, then became the Royal Canadian Engineers and following unification of the three armed forces in Canada, became the Canadian Military Engineers. Engineers perform a wide range of both construction and destruction tasks on the modern battlefield.
The motto of the Engineers is "Ubique", which means "Everywhere".
The Aardvark Joint Service Flail Unit is a mechanical mine clearance device which uses a rotating drum to flail the ground with weighted chains, resulting in the detonation or destruction of any mines encountered.
It is used to clear large areas of all mines and unexploded ordinance and has been extremely useful to United Nations forces during Peacekeeping missions.
Operated by a crew of two soldiers, the Aardvark has been involved in operations throughout the world including Bosnia, Lebanon, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Combat Engineers are responsible for:
- Constructing and maintaining roads, airfields, heliports and bridges
- Constructing field defences and obstacles to block the enemy
- Hindering the enemy on the battlefield by demolishing roads and bridges
- Maintaining field installations, facilities and communication systems
- Detecting and disposing of land mines and booby traps
- Constructing local water distribution systems
- Providing drinking water by testing, purifying and filtering local supplies.
- Operating vehicles and equipment in support of Engineer Operations
- Maintaining and operating engineering vehicles and equipment, including weapons and supplies
- When necessary, fight as infantry.
The deadly legacy of landmines:
- Landmines are explosive devices often including extra shrapnel and typically positioned on or just below the surface of the ground and triggered by contact
- Placed by armies or guerrillas, landmines disable any person or vehicle that comes into contact with them
- Largely used as an obstacle to an enemy advance, landmines are one of the deadliest legacies of 20th century warfare
- Landmines continue to be active for many decades and have tragic, unintended consequences years after hostilities have ended
- As time who passes, the location of landmines is often forgotten, even by those who planted them
- Today there are more than 100 million landmines still planted in 70 countries
- Since 1975, landmines have killed or maimed more than one million people
A region traditionally characterized by political instability and ethnic strife, the former Yugoslavia was the site for one of Canada’s longest and most involved peacekeeping missions. The breakdown of the Yugoslav state in the early 1990’s soon devolved into full-scale civil war, accompanied by horrifying examples of ethnic cleansing.
The UN Protection Force, dispatched to separate the warring Bosnians, Croatians and Serbs, arrived in 1992 and included a large contingent of Canadians.
Originally the Canadian mission was to escort humanitarian relief convoys, but this role quickly expanded as the Canadian forces found themselves mired in the quagmire of civil war, trying to defend civilians and mitigate the impact of the conflict.
Over 12 years, some 40,000 Canadian soldiers would serve in Bosnia – in duties ranging from humanitarian relief to full scale combat. In 2004, the last Canadian peacekeepers withdrew from Bosnia, having contributed a great deal towards stemming the spread of ethnic violence and stabilizing a region in turmoil.