Honouring a young man who wanted to bring kites to Afghan children
On Friday, May 9, Canadians will come together – some silently in their homes, many at events held across the country – to mark our first
National Day of Honour
, commemorating Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. Together we will pay tribute to the fallen, the sacrifices of the wounded and the burdens borne by military families. On May 9 at 1:30 pm, a single gun shot will signal
two minutes of silence across Canada.
There's been much discussion and a good degree of
angst expressed over the lack of support for returning military
, especially in terms of dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And I agree. We need to be doing a lot more. But I also feel it's hugely important that we don't let this debate detract us from the purpose of this day: thanking the men and women who've been wounded, have had their lives totally disrupted, and to their families who share the burden. And of paramount importance, let us honour those who died in the Afghanistan mission. Any man or woman who has spent time overseas in Afghanistan, whether in a combat position or in an administrative role, deserves an overwhelming thank you from all Canadians. As seen in our online
Gallery of Heroes
, we have so many to thank. I know that resident from the small Ontario town of Elmvale, where I attended high school, will think of Lieutenant William Turner, who grew up just yards from the high school. Billy, as he was called, was the younger brother of a former classmate, Toya. On April 22, 2006,
Lieutenant William Turner
, Land Force Western Area Headquarters, Edmonton, Alberta, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Three other Canadian soldiers died with him. During two minutes of silence, I, and many others who knew Lieutenant Turner, will think of his family, and the loss that they've endured. But I will also think of the special contributions that William Turner and countless others made while serving in Afghanistan that went beyond the call of duty. The Service Notes in Lieutenant Turner's official records, written by a fellow officer, paint a portrait of a soldier dedicated to the mission, but also to improving the lives of others.
"Hi, my name is Bill, and I'm here to help you." That was Lt. Bill Turner's favourite way of introducing himself to the dozens of ordinary people he met during his difficult and dangerous three months as a Civilian-Military Co-operation officer in Afghanistan. It was Turner's job to accompany combat officers into a village or a district, and sit down with local elders, sometimes over tea and figure out what the village needed. Sometimes the request he heard came from children. "One of the most popular things we get asked for is kites", Turner said in an interview. The fact that a man who tried to bring clean water to dispossessed villagers and find kites for their children speaks volumes about Bill. " Over here, if I can make a small difference in one person's life -- in a child's life especially -- my time in Afghanistan will have been worth it," he said. Turner stated in an interview, "The Taliban banned kites. But the kids here just love them". Therefore, Turner decided to put in an order from home---kites and soccer balls for kids. However, on April 22, he and three other Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.
There are many
activities marking National Day of Honour
. In addition, there will be a cross-country tour of
The Afghanistan Memorial Vigil
, which was constructed by the troops in Kandahar. It commemorates the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of Armed Forces members during Canada's mission in Afghanistan. The Vigil comprises 190 plaques from KAF Cenotaph representing the Fallen (158 Canadian military, one diplomat, one reporter, one Contractor and 40 Americans) along with various artifacts. It recognizes the support of military families and their friends.
Here are the dates The Vigil will be appearing across Canada. • May 4: Canadian Forces Base Trenton (start of Soldier On Afghanistan Relay Race) • May 5-8: Kingston (concurrent with Soldier On Afghanistan Relay Race) • May 9: Parliament Hill • June 9-12: Quebec City • June 14: Canadian Forces Base Val-Cartier (100th anniversary of the base) • June 17-21: Montreal • June 30 - July 5: Toronto • July 8-11: Canadian Forces Base Petawawa • July 21-26: Victoria • July 29 - August 2: Vancouver • August 11-16: Edmonton (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Centennial Commemorations) • August 25-29: Calgary • September 2-6: Regina • September 9-13: Canadian Forces Base Shilo • September 16-20: Winnipeg • September 29 - October 4: Fredericton • October 7-11: Charlottetown • October 14-18: Halifax • October 22-26: St John's • November 5-12: Ottawa (Remembrance Week)
Who will you be honouring on May 9?