Day of Honour

Journal Pioneer staff
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Legion, veterans, military and civilians gather to commemorate Canadian mission in Afghanistan

SUMMERSIDE – Legion members, veterans, serving military and cadets, with an enveloping line of public observers, celebrated the National Day of Honour to recognize and commemorate Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan, at Memorial Park on Saturday.

The official ceremony, in Ottawa, was held on Friday, but LeRoy Gamble, Summerside Legion past president and event chairman, explained that they decided to hold it a day later, here, to try to make more people aware of it.

“We chose today because of the short notice we had to get it together,” Gamble said.

“We wanted to get out to all the schools and the public as to the time of the parade, so we decided to move it back one day to give us that little bit more time,” he explained.

Gamble said the National Day of Honour was a one-time ceremony, but that Afghanistan veterans will be included in regular Remembrance Day ceremonies from now on, and he understood the national service to be of similar consequence.

The national event included display of the Afghanistan Memorial Vigil -commemorating 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel, a Canadian diplomat, a DND contractor, a Canadian journalist who was embedded with the CAF, and 40 United States Armed Forces members who were under Canadian command during operations in Afghanistan - which will travel to cities across Canada and the United States during 2014.

In Summerside, participating members marched from the Legion branch to the cenotaph at Memorial Park, and were circled by members of the public of all ages.

A moment of silence was observed, and Gamble briefly described the purpose of the memorial and its importance.

“We sincerely thank you for attending this Day of Honour for our Afghan veterans,” he told the audience.

“We are here, today, to honour their dedication, their heroism, and their sacrifice. We pay homage to the heroes of Afghanistan, and the mission, and pay tribute to the 158 Canadians who paid the supreme sacrifice. Our men and women in uniform helped secure a better life for those in Afghanistan. Twelve years our Canadian military remained there, and many of our men and women came home changed forever. To those individuals, we owe a debt of gratitude and ongoing support. God bless them all,” he said.

Before concluding the ceremony, Gamble urged his fellow Legion members to remember their duties to their Legion branch, their comrades, and their sovereign. He asked them to strive to support unity and the spirit of comradeship, never forgetting the solemn obligations they have assumed as members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

We’ll be doing everything possible to help them in their future endeavours. LeRoy Gamble - service officer at Summerside branch of the Royal Canadian Legion

After the intentionally brief remarks, a wreath was laid at the cenotaph by Afghanistan veterans Sgt. Randy McCourt (Ret’d.) and MCpl. Mike Murphy (Ret’d.), before other members of the military dressed the wreath with poppies, as did members of the public who came forward.

“The poppy is a symbol of remembrance,” explained Gamble, of the icon that is so well known at the Nov. 11 ceremonies.

“We use the poppy at all Legion and veterans funerals, and we use them for different, solemn occasions. Today was a day of remembrance, so we decided to use our poppies,” he said.

Gamble was disappointed that attendance by the public, particularly school children, which the Legion made an effort to include, was not more evident for this particular remembrance event.

Despite the weather, which offered light rain through the latter half of the ceremony and an outright downpour as the event concluded and the parade marched back to the Legion for the reception, Gamble was satisfied with the outcome.

“This was done in consultation with the Afghan veterans, and they wanted to keep it a brief remembrance of the people they served with, so we tried to make it different than Remembrance Day,” he explained.

One name from the conflict is on the cenotaph, that of WO Frank Mellish, whose name was read during the service as an Islander. Also named were Captain Nichola Goddard and Cpl. Nick Bulger, for their family ties to P.E.I. , as the National Day of Honour was also implemented to recognize and support the friends and families of those involved.

Gamble, service officer at the Legion, emphasized that the branch is supporting the Afghan veterans, whether their wounds be visible or invisible.

“We’ll be doing everything possible to help them in their future endeavours,” he vowed.




Organizations: Canadian Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Legion.After

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Ottawa, Canada United States Memorial Park

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