Ottawa will honour the service and sacrifice of Canada’s Afghanistan veterans and their families on May 9. It’s appropriate that such a ceremony be held now Canada’s 12-year military mission is over.
It’s unfortunate, however, that negotiations over how, when and where to mark Canada’s longest military operation were ensnared in political angst over how Canadians might react if the event had been held on Canada Day, which the Defence Department had originally suggested.
The Afghan mission was never very popular with Canadians, many of whom paid it little notice. The fact is, however, nearly 40,000 Canadians served. More than 4,000 are receiving disability benefits. Each soldier’s service affected the lives of many others at home.
Even if Canadians are indifferent, the country cannot ignore what happened. The ceremony on May 9 will only be a first step in the process of understanding and remembrance. The Defence Department needs to prepare an official history, while Veterans Affairs needs to close the gaps in compensation for injured soldiers. Research must continue into post-traumatic stress. Military lessons need to be learned and absorbed.
On May 9, all Canadians should salute the men and women who served.
» A version of this editorial first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 24, 2014