Our Sacrifice for Afghanistan
I begain this blog entry a couple of weeks ago. Friday, Canada had four more soldiers die in Afghanistan bringing the number now to 116. Governor General,The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean and the Defense Minister, Peter MacKay, will be present to receive the coffins along with the families and accompany them to Toronto.
Recently Canada has lost four more soldiers in Afghanistan bring the total to 112.
As a percentage, Canada has suffered the highest number of casualties among the forces there.
They are located in Kandahar Province where the insurgency is very strong. The mission is very risky as it requires soldiers to be out and about patrolling and communicating with the local people. They need to let people know that they are offering security and they need to find out what they can do for the local people within the scope of the Reconstruction Program. Sadly, most of the casualties have been the result of improvised explosive devices buried along the road.
The Canadian military, I believe, is doing an admirable job of which Canadians can be proud. Besides establishing some level of security along with the Afghanistan Army, which they are helping to train, they have arranged for wells to be dug and schools built. They also financed a wall to be built around the grounds of Kandahar University so the nomadic Kuchi people could be kept off the grounds feeding their animals. Local medical help has been give where possible, widows have regularly been given food and other goods. They have also been able to arrange vaccinations against polio, an illness that is largely wiped out world wide. A bridge has been built across the river and the largest project is Canada's commitment to refurbish a local dam to improve irrigation of farms. It seems Canada has established some good will locally.
The Canadian military has been careful to respect the local people and their customs. They also have tried to minimize civilian casualites.
Canada's involvement in Afghanistan is not without its critics, myself among them. Canada is determined to end it's military involvment in 2011, after a decade, as determined by parliament. It seems the Conservative government is determined not to give in to the US pressure to stay longer.
Canada is not a very militaristic country, although we have an outstanding military history when it has been necessary ,the seven times, for Canada has come to the aid of other countries. It seems we do manage to create very good soldiers in spite of often underfunding the military, there not being a larger constituency to lobby for support of the military such as they have in the US with its vision of an empire of World domination and the lobbying of the military-industrial complex.
Canadians from the beginning have felt a deep respect the soldiers that have died in this mission, even while being critical of the mission itself. It seems the Canadian soldiers, who often come from small towns and rural areas of the country are just some of our "lads" and have earned our love and respect.
The Conservative government of Stephen Harper tried to follow the US example and keep the public and press away from the coffins returning from the war. Canadians wouldn't hear of it. Many of the families of the fallen soldiers felt to deny public recognition only demeaned the sacrifice their sons or daughter has made. So the government reversed its decision and now the returning dead soldiers are publically acknowledged and honoured. The coffins are all returned to Base Trenton where the immediate family is present along with some high government representatives: such as the Governor General, the Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, or another cabinet official. The press are there and it usually makes the evening TV news.
From the beginning,spontaneously, people began showing up on the bridges over passes along the 100 miles of highway 401 from Base Trenton to Toronto. This stretch of highway has officially been named
"The Highway of Heroes/Autoroute des heros" Summer and Winter people gather, informed by word of mouth and often waiting a long time to see the convoy of limos and hearses pass. People find their own way of saluting and recognizing the fallen soldiers. Individuals, families, veterans,
uniformed service personnel are all there on all the bridges. It is a very moving tribute.
(click photo to enlarge)
Bridge over the Highway of Heroes.
On YouTube you can find many video tributes to Canada's soldiers. Some are for individual soldiers, others are for a groups of soldiers that died together. Individuals and groups of Canadians have created these. You will even find the tribute NBC did last November. I guess in their own way they were approving of how Canada has handled this and disapproving of how the US has handled it. I have looked at many of them and they are all very moving. Some are a little too over the top for my liking. I chose to include one put together by a high school in Toronto, Malvern Collegiate. It is subdued and reverential and it follows all the steps the returning solider goes through from the ramp ceremony in Kandahar to arriving in Toronto.
I hope you take the time to view it and enjoy it. Tthink of the young soldiers who have died answering the call of Canada to serve and defend another country.
Here you will find the list of soldiers since 2002.