Ceremony commemorates 10th anniversary of the end of Canada’s Afghanistan mission

CHEK

The plaza around the B.C. Afghanistan Memorial in Victoria was full of people Tuesday afternoon commemorating the end of Canada’s Afghanistan mission.

March 12 marked the 10th anniversary of the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, which saw more than 40,000 Canadians deployed between October 2001 and March 2014.

The Afghanistan military engagement was Canada’s largest and longest mission since the Second World War.

“Today we are celebrating the veterans of the war, their families and the Silver Cross recipient families to tell them that this is not going to become a forgotten war,” retired Lt. Col. Paul Paone, one of the event organizers, said.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the conflict in Afghanistan was front-page news in the early to mid-2000s.

“For most Canadians, Afghanistan represented their first real experience of living in an era of conflict,” she said.

“We did not learn about the mission in history books or hear from it from our aging grandparents who had been a part of it.”

During the conflict, 165 Canadian soldiers, sailors, aircrew and civilians were killed, and more than 2,000 others were injured.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, veterans shared their stories from the mission, politicians made speeches, and the names of those who lost their lives in battle were read.

“There’s an old saying: If you say a person’s name out loud, they’ll never be forgotten,” Paone said.

‘We enjoy coming to these’

Sian Jones Lesueur’s son was one of the names read out loud.

Jones Lesueur said her son was killed while serving on Dec. 30, 2009, just before his 21st birthday.

She said memorial ceremonies like this one are very important for the surviving family members.

“Especially when Canada’s not involved in a conflict or war of any sort, people forget,” Jones Lesueur explained.

“Remembrance Day comes around, and they get a few minutes to think about it. Some do, and some don’t, and then they forget again. I think it’s important to talk about what people have given up.”

She added they also give grieving families a chance to connect and share stories of their lost loved ones.

“There’s a lot of laughter too. We enjoy each other’s company. These are good things for us, they’re not sad or depressing,” Jones Lesueur explained.

“We enjoy coming to these.”

The B.C. Afghanistan Memorial is located at the corner of Courtney and Quadra streets as a constant reminder of the mission and the people who died during it.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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