Victoria ceremony honours those who served and died in Afghanistan
Close to 100 people gathered Thursday morning in the wet and cold at the memorial behind Victoria’s courthouse to honour those soldiers who served and who lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan.
Retired Col. Jammie Hammond served in Afghanistan and spoke briefly at the ceremony, which took place at 10 a.m. and was intended to compliment other Remembrance Day ceremonies in the region.
“I think it’s important that Canadians reflect on what we did in Afghanistan,” said Hammond.
That's a sentiment echoed by Lt. Col. David Proctor, who also served in Afghanistan and said the ceremony was a meaningful way to honour those who fought for Canada in the war.
“It’s a perpetual reminder that the freedoms and the privileges are not free,” said Proctor.
A total of 163 Canadians were killed in Canada’s deadliest engagement since the Korean War. Among them were Lt. Andrew Nuttall — a former University of Victoria student whose mother laid a wreath for him Thursday during the ceremony — and Michelle Lang, a Calgary Herald newspaper reporter who was killed along with four soldiers, when their armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb in December 2009.
The journalist’s aunt, Catherine Lang, was at the ceremony Thursday, and said it meant a great deal to their family.
“The last thing we want is for people to forget,” she said.
The sacrifices of those who died in Afghanistan and those who returned, many of them wounded, are especially unsettling this year. The country they helped protect was overtaken by the brutal Taliban regime in August, when the Americans pulled out.
It’s a tough reality, Catherine Lang acknowledged, noting what it would mean to her niece, Michelle.
“She would be as devastated as we are with the outcome following the U.S. troop withdrawal,” said Lang.
Still, those sacrifices were not in vain, said Lt. Col. Kirk Jones, who served in Afghanistan and attended the ceremony with his family, including his daughter and grandchildren.
“We have a whole generation of girls, of women, that got to go to school, got educated and got to know there’s a whole world out there, so I don’t ever feel it’s for naught,” said Jones.
Hammond also pointed to the impact on an entire generation of Afghans.
“Twenty-five million Afghans who are under the age of 25 actually got an education, and we now have a literate generation, which didn’t exist before, so I think that’s a contribution to the future,” he said following Thursday’s ceremony.