There are important military events in the Brandon area next weekend.
The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2PPCLI) will hold a parade in Shilo on Friday at 10 a.m. to mark the 20th anniversary of the Medak Pocket battle. The RCA Museum will open a new temporary exhibit at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to honour all who served in the Balkans.
On Saturday, Sept. 14 at
2 p.m., the Brandon Veterans’ Memorial will be unveiled.
So this time out: wars in Yugoslavia, commendations, and empty seats.
• Wars in Yugoslavia: Canadians became involved in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The country was breaking apart, resulting in very nasty civil wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Canadian peacekeepers tried to limit the tragedy. The last Canadian left Yugoslavia in 2012. More than 40,000 of our soldiers served there during those 21 years. Twenty-three were killed, 115 wounded and hundreds more were injured.
• Commendations: The governor general has authority to issue commendations to units that perform an extraordinary deed or activity of a rare high standard in extremely hazardous circumstances. The commendations are restricted to war or war-like conditions in an active theatre of operations. Canadians often became involved in combat in Yugoslavia to defend themselves against factions who did not respect the UN and to prevent the frequent attacks on civilians that have become infamous as "ethnic cleansing."
Only three such commendations have ever been awarded, and two were for actions in Yugoslavia. The first went to the Royal 22e Regiment for opening Sarajevo airport for humanitarian aid in July 1992 and then fighting to keep it open. The second went to 2PPCLI for actions during the Battle of the Medak Pocket in September 1993. At the time Canada’s largest battle since Korea, it was fought to prevent Croatian "ethnic cleansing" in a Serb area.
In both of these actions, the courage and resolve of Canadian soldiers saved many innocent lives.
• Empty seats: The minister of National Defence will be at the events in Shilo. He will be joined by Medak veterans to mark a moment when they did us all proud, stood their ground and showed the world exactly what Canada means. Veterans of other moments just as harrowing and important will be in Brandon next Saturday.
There will be lots of room for spectators and empty seats send a clear message. So I invite you all to take some time and fill those seats. Show the veterans that we are grateful and proud of them; that we honour their comrades who fell while trying to bring a little peace to the world. If more than 1,000 of us can show up for our new airline, I know we can do just as well for our veterans.
» Marc George is a retired soldier who served 25 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently the Director of The RCA Museum in Shilo. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @TheRCAMuseum
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 7, 2013