Several months ago I wrote a few blogs about the Great Escape, the incredible part the Canadians played in that historic event, and how many of them and others were murdered after escaping from the German POW Camp for Air Force officers.
The later of these columns told of the recent march by British serving officers a few months ago and their march from that very POW camp in Germany to the victims' final resting place to conduct suitable ceremonies.
In May of this year I brought you as few blogs about the march of some of the Canadians who became injured or disabled during their service in Afghanistan and how a group formed representing them, and called SOAR... Soldiers on Afghanistan Relay... sent a relay of 19 heroes on a march from Trenton Ontario through several small towns etc en-route to Ottawa to participate in the National Day of Heroes on May 9th.
At that time I also shared news on the Vigil.. a memorial created by the service men and women themselves...to honour their lost comrades, both Canadian, and American but under Canadian command at the time, who were killed in actions in Afghanistan. Two of the later blogs on subject can be re-read at...
The top picture is a display of the Afghanistan Memorial Vigil, that was built and added to over the years in that far away place and added to as additional Canadians and Americans died for their countries. Our Governor General and our Prime Minister and their wives visited the memorial in May at the Parliament Buildings.
Canada sent over 40,000 troops, both men and women, to S/W Asia between 2002 and 2014 to perform various functions including combat, security and training missions mostly in the Kabul and Kandahar theatres of operations. The overall deployment into harm's way was the longest in Canada's history and the largest since WW ll.
In our first months of service we lost four soldiers... to friendly fire in a horrible miscalculation of enemy positions. Since then service men and women would contribute their all in every year following till 2010. We would lose 158 heroes, and to that we must add 3 other heroes... a Canadian diplomat, a female journalist, and a contractor. During the later years of 2009 till 2011 there were four US battalions attached to the Canadians on the ground and actually came under our command. During that time 40 of these men and women, heroes more, would also lose their lives.
When you stand in front of any of the panels, and read the names of these heroes and see how young they were..many in their late teens it is no longer a story on the TV or in the news. It is real. These are the very markers the service men and woman created and that were in honour of their comrades who died for you and me and for our country. It was so emotional to stand in this room and think of all that these men and women gave, but I was even more painful to see service men and women, touching markers for those they obviously knew..or perhaps were even related to. And it made me wonder... how can you and I ever repay these folks for what they did, what they gave and what they will never known in life so that you and I can live our lives.
The least we can do is get out and see this memorial when it comes to our neck of the woods. And failing that, a trip to Ottawa to pay respects would be well worth it as well.
I was told that there were a very limited mumber of books produced by the federal government that list all of these heroes and tells a little about their service and how they died. The book also contains information on where the individual plaque for each member is on the panels. Above you can see one of the pages of this book as well as another book for guests to sign, as I did.
At the bottom right is the very flag of Canada last flow at Kandihar Airbase, a set of bagpipes that played as the bodies left the country on their way to being repatriated back to Canada, along Canada's new Highway of Heroes and ultimately to their final resting places. Also shown to the right is the scarf worn by the padre conducting final services before repatriations home.
Above her is the plaque for an embedded journalist... Michelle Lang from the Calgary Herald.. She was killed when the carrier she was riding in with troops ran over a concealed bomb on the roadside. Four Canadian soldiers in the same carrier were also killed in that attack. The year was 2009 and she was only 34 years of age. She was only to be on this temporary assigned to Afghanistan for 6 weeks.
There is much more to come but I will bring this to you on Wednesday next.