Edmonton troops mark National Day of Honour

About 2,000 troops at the Edmonton Garrison joined soldiers across the country in honouring the men and women who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan

All across the country - from Parliament Hill to the Edmonton Garrison - Canadians honoured the soldiers who served in the longest military mission in our nation's history.

About 2,000 troops gathered at Edmonton’s Garrison on Friday morning, while more than 2,500 people watched on, giving thanks to the soldiers they described as heroes.

A total of 40,000 soldiers across the country served in the country’s 12-year Afghanistan conflict. Friday, a national day of honour was billed as a way for a grateful nation to show its appreciation.

There were 158 Canadian soldiers who died during the mission in Afghanistan, as well as a diplomat, journalist and two civilian contractors. More than 2,000 more troops were wounded.

There, on the tarmac at Edmonton Garrison, thousands bowed their heads for two-minutes of silence.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson was on hand to thank all of the troops for their immense sacrifice.

“Today, we salute those who fought to combat terrorism, defend democracy and protest the innocent, the regular forces and reservists alike who put their lives on hold to serve our country and the world,” said Iveson.

Jeff Schnurr went to Afghanistan for two missions in 2009, as well as in 2006 during a period of what he calls serious fighting.

“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about my time in Afghanistan,” he said. “I had a number of friends get killed there. I think about it a fair bit.”

Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn was also at the ceremony, and pointed to the millions of children now going to school in Afghanistan thanks to Canada’s sacrifice.

“We undoubtedly made a difference in the lives of the Afghan people,” she said. “We gave them hope for a better future.”

Friday’s ceremony was something that Chinedu Chuqwu, one of the troops in attendance on the tarmac, says is incredibly important.

“It’s all about celebrating the memories of those who paid the sacrifice of serving our country and bringing peace to the people in Afghanistan, and to let the families know that even though some may have lost their loved ones we are still part of their family,” said Chuqwu. “We are keeping them in our minds and will never forget their sacrifices.”

Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the ceremony on Parliament Hill. Several hundred people also attended another ceremony at the Mewata Armoury in Calgary. 

With files from the Canadian Press.