Canada

Afghan cenotaph to come home to Canada

After standing tall in the heat and dust of Kandahar for five years, a cenotaph honouring the Canadians killed in Afghanistan will soon be coming home.
During a Remembrance Day ceremony in 2010, a Canadian soldier places a poppy on a monument at Kandahar Airfield to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The cenotaph will soon be coming home to Canada. (Jonathan Montpetit/Canadian Press)

After standing tall in the heat and dust of Kandahar for five years, a cenotaph honouring the Canadians killed in Afghanistan will soon be coming home.

The decision to relocate the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Cenotaph to an undetermined location in Ottawa was announced by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and defence chief Gen. Walt Natynczyk on Thursday evening.

"We have a solemn duty to remember those who served, especially those who have fallen in service to their country," MacKay said in a statement.

The government and the National Capital Commission are in the process of identifying a site for the cenotaph, which MacKay said will ultimately be a "place for reflection and remembrance."

Natynczyk added that the cenotaph is an important piece of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and is one well worth bringing home.

"It has served as a powerful symbol of sacrifice," he said in a statement.

The cenotaph, which currently stands in Kandahar Air Field, will start to be dismantled on Nov. 12 for its journey to Canada.

It was erected in 2006 and displays 189 memorial plaques, some representing multiple individuals. A new plaque is to be added to remember Canada's latest casualty, who was killed in a suicide bombing last month.

To date, 158 Canadian soldiers and two civilians have died as a result of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

Once the cenotaph is taken down, a one-metre high stone and a bas-relief plaque that is currently the cenotaph's centrepiece will be transported to Canadian Forces in Kabul to mark the fact that Canada's presence in Afghanistan continues.

Canada wrapped up its combat role in Afghanistan earlier this year, but about 900 Canadian soldiers are in Kabul as part of a mission to train military personnel in the country until 2014.

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