By Jennifer Bowman
A memorial for fallen Canadian soldiers was unveiled at CFB Trenton on Wednesday.
National Defence Minister Peter MacKay spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the Camp Mirage Memorial Cairn.
“It’s fitting that the Camp Mirage Monument is finally here in Trenton on the same route that all of these personnel take when going home,” said MacKay.
There was standing room only at the ceremony, as military personnel, dignitaries, and those who lost loved ones to the war in Afghanistan crowded into the room at the Royal Canadian Air Force Museum at the base.
The memorial was originally in Camp Mirage, the main military base in Southeast Asia that supplied and supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. The monument was there from 2006 until the camp closed in the fall of 2010.
MacKay officially passed the care of the monument to Colonel Dave Cochrane, Commander of 8 Wing CFB Trenton.
“It’s a powerful symbol that honours Canada’s fallen sons and daughters that are often referred to as Canada’s greatest citizens,” said MacKay
Colonel Peter Dawe’s son was one of those. Dawe lost his son, Captain Matthew Dawe, to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan four years and two days ago. His son was age 27.
“Anytime you talk about fallen and Afghanistan in the same sentence, it’s painful,” said Dawe.
The cairn is a three-part pyramid-like structure made of granite. Brass plates show the names of all the soldiers who have fallen in Afghanistan. Artificial grass has replaced the real grass that used to surround it in Camp Mirage.
“This monument will be an enduring part of Canada’s heritage, and a lasting poignant reminder of our efforts to bring change to a country that was destroyed by decades of war and turmoil,” said MacKay.
Despite losing his son, Dawe said he doesn’t think Canadians should look backwards. But he also supports pulling out the combat troops.
“I think it’s as good a choice as any. I think we need to stay the course in some manner.”
MacKay reflected on the nine-year war in Afghanistan.
Canada has made many connections in Afghanistan, said MacKay. Canada has helped millions of children go to school, millions of people become vaccinated, and also helped with infrastructure and construction, creating a security umbrella for more progress.
“In accomplishing these tasks, Canada has spent a great deal of blood and treasure,” said MacKay. “Given the size of the sacrifice, we witness one small but significant and incredibly powerful symbol returning home to Canada.”
After nine years, Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended on Tuesday. Canadian Forces flew more than 22,000 hours during more than 4,500 missions during that time.