Soldiers who served in Afghanistan pay tribute to families
Brig.-Gen. David Henley said newspapers helped him get through some of the rough days.
Henley, one of 40,000 Canadians who served in Afghanistan, spoke Friday at a sombre National Day of Honour ceremony in Charlottetown. It was a day designed to commemorate the strength and dedication of the Canadian Armed Forces who joined the military mission in Afghanistan.
It was a war that began not long after the 9/11 attack on the United States, a conflict that would last 12 years with the final soldiers arriving home just this past March.
“Every week my wife would send me newspapers from home,’’ Henley said.
“I would get them a couple of weeks out of date but they allowed me to stay in touch with what was going on at home, though I had the most expensive newspaper subscription on the planet. It was those types of things that helped the soldiers get through the rough days.’’
Ceremonies were held across Canada on Friday.
The war in Afghanistan claimed 158 Canadian soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, a diplomat, a journalist, a civilian contractor, policemen and women and 40 U.S. Armed Forces soldiers who served under Canadian command.
Henley said those who deployed could not have done so without the support of loved ones at home.
“As one who served in Afghanistan, I think this is particularly important.’’
Major Trevor Jain, who served as MC at Friday’s ceremony, told The Guardian after the commemoration event that the families back home were the “invisible army’’.
“Nobody can go to war and fight a war if their family members are not taking care of the homefront,’’ Jain said. “It was a terrible conflict with many lives lost and with the number of injured that are (still) suffering. It’s important that they know that their brothers and sisters are here for them.’’
Chief Superintendent Craig Gibson, commanding officer of L Division RCMP (P.E.I.), paid tribute police officers who served in a peacekeeping role in Afghanistan. More than 300 police officers served from 2003-14.
“(Today’s ceremony) allows us to reflect on our mission and remember the allies and Afghans we worked with to make (Afghanistan) a better place,’’ Gibson said.
A two-minute moment of silence was observed at 2:30 p.m. across Canada, including at the Charlottetown ceremony.
Fisheries Minister and Island MP Gail Shea said thanks to the Canadian effort Afghanistan is “no longer a sanctuary for terrorists.’’ pointing out that now women and children are getting an education, the country is conducting democratic elections and women can now vote.
Premier Robert Ghiz encouraged all Islanders to remember those who sacrifice everything to preserve freedom.
“Today is a chance to thank those that fought, remember those that fell and recognize the families and friends that supported them along the way,’’ the premier said.