Leroy Gamble, president of Summerside Legion Branch #5, with Randy McCourt, a local veteran of the Afghanistan War. The men are promoting an honouring ceremony set for this Saturday in Summerside's Memorial Park. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE – Prince Edward Island’s Afghanistan War veterans will be honoured in a small ceremony in Summerside on Saturday.
Technically, Friday, May 9, has been decreed a National Day of Honour for the more than 40,000 men and women who served in that 12-year-long conflict. However, Summerside Legion Branch #5 is organizing a local event on Saturday, May 10, to try and attract more people on a weekend.
All Islanders are encouraged to come and show their support, said Legion president, Leroy Gamble.
The veterans will parade to the cenotaph in Memorial Park, leaving the Legion at 10:45 and arriving at 11 a.m.
There will be a short ceremony involving the laying of a wreath and poppies and a few moments of silence.
“No long speeches. We’re here to remember more than anything. It’s to be simple and solemn,” said Gamble.
Canada devoted 12 years and lost 158 soldiers in the Afghanistan conflict. Dozens of Islanders were among them.
One paid the ultimate price.
WO Frank Robert Mellish, who was born in Truro, N.S., but spent his formative years in Kensington, was killed in action during Operation Medusa on Sept. 3, 2006. He was serving with First Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. He was one of 158 Canadian soldiers who died in that conflict.
Randy McCourt, of Wilmot Valley, served in Afghanistan conducting psychological operations in 2007. He joined the military reserves in 1996 and served until recently.
He’s planning to be at the memorial service on Saturday, and is proud to do so.
“I think it’s important to reflect on the people who served and the people who fell,” said McCourt.
“It’s greatly appreciated that the Legion is taking this on and making the effort,” he added.
“It should have been done before,” said Gamble.
“We’ve been saying that for a number of years. We have Afghan veterans in our branch – and they’re not getting the right level of recognition.”
There are three Afghan vets who are Summerside Legion members. McCourt said he knows of more who are living here, but he understands if they don’t necessarily want to participate in commemorative events or the Legion.
“I think the individual determines whether they want to be visible or not. Not everyone wants the pomp and circumstance of an event. Especially in a war this fresh. There are a lot of wounds that are still healing,” he said.
But for those who decide that camaraderie and community can be of benefit to them, events like the one planned on Saturday can provide a great deal of comfort, he said.