Friday, May 9, 2014

Opinion

They Did Us Proud: Strahl

National Day of Honour May 9

Submitted by Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl

 

ince I was elected in 2011, I've had the privilege of serving on a number of Parliamentary Standing Committees, which are permanent committees struck by the House of Commons to study and consider issues relating to a particular government department.

 

One of the most interesting committees I was assigned to was the National Defence Committee.

 

Because I was a member of that committee, I was able to help welcome back the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Division from their 10 month rotation as part of Canada's training mission in Kabul, Afghanistan in March of 2012.


MC Mark Gillatly presents a flag that was flown in Afghanistan at the Kandahar Airfield to Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz in her office in November 2010.


They flew in to Edmonton late at night after spending their "decompression" time in Cyprus. They were a tired bunch, but they looked like a million bucks in their fresh combat fatigues as they disembarked in the orderly fashion befitting the military training they had received. I joined a handful of military brass who had turned out to welcome them back on the tarmac and shook the hand of every returning soldier. I shook hands with my younger cousin, Michal, and probably broke protocol by giving him a hug as he was one of the last to deplane. He didn't know I was going to be there and I'll never forget the surprised look followed by his trademark grin. I simply said "thank you, welcome home" to each soldier who was back on Canadian soil for the first time in 10 months, and knew that I was speaking for all Canadians when I did so.

On March 18, 2014, the Prime Minister welcomed back the last of Canada's troops participating in the training mission in Afghanistan. Canada had committed combat troops to Afghanistan in 2001, and now the last of our military trainers have returned home. While a handful of troops will remain on military exchanges and to protect Canadian diplomatic missions there, the official mission is now over.

The Afghanistan conflict was unlike any other that Canadian troops have participated in. As a result, the injuries - both physical and mental - and stresses on the troops there was unlike anything we had ever seen or prepared for. It is for this reason that our government is constantly updating and attempting to improve the programs that we are offering to our veterans. The programs and services offered by Veterans Affairs are being reviewed, again, by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, with a special emphasis on ways that we can improve services and supports for our most injured veterans. They were willing to give all for us, and we must continue to improve in order to provide them with the help they need, when and where they need it.

The Prime Minister has declared May 9, 2014 to be a National Day of Honour in recognition of the more than 40,000 Canadian troops who served in Afghanistan during the mission. It will also be a day to once again remember the 158 military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting the freedoms and ideals that Canadians hold so dear.

Whatever your views were, or are, on the war in Afghanistan, Canadians should be proud that our women and men in uniform proved once again that, soldier for soldier, they are the finest in the world. They helped drive a brutal and repressive Taliban regime out of power and have made a real and lasting impact in the lives of the Afghan people, who were able to participate in democratic Presidential elections last month, something that was unthinkable just a few short years ago.

 

Our soldiers stood up for our freedoms and our way of life after they were both attacked on September 11, 2001. They did us proud. On May 9th, let's celebrate and remember them.

 

 

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