The sacrifice and dedication of Saskatchewan soldiers who served in Afghanistan was noted Wednesday.
Across the province, flags at government buildings were lowered to half-mast to honour the women and men who were part of the 12-year long deployment.
In Kabul, Canadian soldiers also lowered -- for the last time -- a Canadian flag at NATO's headquarters. That ceremony, held under sunny skies, ended with Canadians leaving aboard a U.S. Chinook helicopter. The remaining Canadian personnel will leave by the end of the week.
In Regina, at the legislature, government dignitaries reflected on Saskatchewan's contribution to the mission.
From the Saskatchewan War Memorial:
- Cpl. Jordan Anderson
- Cpl. James Arnal
- Cpl. Cole Bartsch
- Lt. Justin Boyes
- Cpl. David Braun
- Capt. Nichola Goddard
- Master Cpl. Byron Greff
- Cpl. Shane Keating
- Cpl. Bryce Keller
- Sgt. Darby Morin
- Lt. Andrew Nuttal
- Master Cpl. Joshua Roberts
- Sgt. Scott Shipway
- Master Cpl. Allan Stewart
- Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh
- Cpl. Dustin Wasden
- Michelle Lang (Journalist)
"The dedication, bravery and professionalism of these men and women who left their families, friends and loved ones at home to put themselves in harm's way on foreign soil shall not be taken for granted or forgotten by Saskatchewan people," Premier Brad Wall said. "We owe them and their families a collective debt for their sacrifices that shall never be fully repaid."
The provincial flag ceremony was held on the grounds of the legislature at the Saskatchewan War Memorial where the names of 17 soldiers and civilians with ties to Saskatchewan who perished in the conflict are inscribed.
In another ceremony, in Saskatoon, Lt. Cole Janett, who joined the military four years ago, said Canada's work in Afghanistan was a great experience.
"You know, sometimes the progress was slow and it was hard and we learned a lot of lessons. Some easier, some harder than others, but there was always progress," Janett said. "And we saw that and I was lucky enough to be in a location that I did see that."
Janett was the North Saskatchewan Regiment's last soldier to return home from Afghanistan.
"I'm proud," he added. "I think about the people who have sacrificed a lot more than I did when I was over there. And I'm just glad to be a part of that group that was able to give something back."
"I'm just hoping that we made a positive difference," Capt. Brent McIntyre added. "And that the lives we lost weren't in vain."
Flags were also lowered Wednesday morning at City Hall in Regina.
"I am reminded of the sacrifices each and every member of our Armed Forces and their families have made over the past 12 years," Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said. "Canada's military is recognized for its ongoing contributions to international peace, and for good reason. The Afghanistan mission is only the latest chapter in our long history as peacekeepers."
Fougere noted, in particular, soldiers with ties to the city.
"I am especially proud of the contribution of members of the Regina units of the 38th Brigade Group, which includes the Royal Regina Rifles, the 10th Field Regiment, the 16th Service Battalion and the 16th Medical Company," he said.
One of the soldiers taking part in the Kabul ceremony Wednesday was Cpl. Jordan Taylor, who is from Regina.
His unit saw some of the fiercest fighting during a five-year combat mission in Kandahar.
"I've had some good friends who've lost their lives here," Taylor said.