Memorial honours humanity
Special to The Okanagan Weekend
On Saturday, Sept. 30, a brigade of people, several hundred in uniform, stood in respectful witness as then-Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon and the ambassador from Afghanistan cut a long blue ribbon, unveiling British Columbia’s Afghanistan War Memorial in Victoria.
“I can assure you that the people of Afghanistan have not forgotten,” Afghan ambassador Shinkai Karokhail said. “We have not forgotten those who have given their everything so that our children could grow, learn, prosper and live in peace.”
Set at the corner of Quadra and Courtney streets at the site of a children’s playground on Victoria’s courthouse grounds, a new granite marker stands. It depicts a Canadian soldier and a boy, their hands outstretched under a maple tree amid its scattered leaves. This granite structure honours the 40,000 Canadians who served in the Afghan mission from 2002-2014.
This memorial departs from the traditional military memorials by emphasizing the humanitarian aspects of the mission.
The memorial lists 163 Canadians who died, including five civilians, and recognizes those who returned with mental or physical wounds. Fourteen citizens from British Columbia died in Afghanistan including Michelle Lang, a reporter.
The concept of an Afghanistan memorial was identified through a casual conversation between Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman, and Dr. Richard Nuttall. This led to a committee, later a society of nine inspired directors and an advisory group of legal charity and veterans chaired by Brig. Gen. (ret.) J.E.L. Gollner; this project was a five-year effort.
Funding came from DVA and four prominent Victoria businessmen.
The B.C. Afghanistan Memorial honours those who served; those who died during the mission; those who returned with mental and physical wounds as well as families and loved ones who had to cope when family members were deployed.
On parade in the Veterans Guard, were two British Columbia Dragoons the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mike McGinty and RSM David Jones and CWO Sean Parker, both who served in Afghanistan.