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Mother of fallen Canadian soldier: New Afghanistan war monument a 'godsend'

A new planned monument will be an LAV III armoured vehicle, a modern piece of military technology widely used in Canada's operations in Afghanistan.

Demilitarized LAV III to be installed next spring at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

Bev McCraw on learning her son had been killed by an IED in Afghanistan 1:59

A demilitarized version of the same vehicle that Bev McCraw's son Shawn was in when he was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in 2008 will be installed permanently as a new war monument at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

"This monument is an absolute godsend," McCraw said at a ground-breaking ceremony held at the museum on Thursday morning.

 "It's a constant memorial, a permanent memorial, to all those who served in Afghanistan."

The monument will be an LAV III armoured vehicle, a modern piece of military technology widely used in Canada's operations in Afghanistan.

Third tour of duty

Her son, Sgt. Shawn Allen Eades grew up on the Mountain in Hamilton, went to cadets from age 12 and knew ever since he wanted to be in the military. He enlisted in 1994, and was based in Edmonton. 

He was a combat engineer on his third tour in Afghanistan when he was killed.

The monument commemorates the military service of four Hamilton soldiers who died, either in combat or as a result of serving in Afghanistan: Eades (IED), Pte. Mark Anthony Graham (friendly fire), Maj. Raymond Mark Ruckpaul (self-inflicted gunshot) and Cpl. Justin Matthew Stark (killed himself in the James St. N. armouries), as well as honouring others from Hamilton who served in Afghanistan.

A rendering of a new monument expected to be installed by spring 2017 to honour Hamiltonians' service in Afghanistan. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The Steel City chapter of the North Wall Riders, a group of motorcyclists with a mission to support Canada's veterans, is spearheading the project with help from Hamilton military groups and fundraising efforts.

The monument is expected to cost $40,000 and be installed next spring.

Hamilton MPs David Sweet and Filomena Tassi both stressed the importance of supporting those returning from conflict and providing appropriate care for mental and emotional distress.

PTSD 'not to be shunned' 

The monument honours not only soldiers who were killed in combat but also includes recognition of those who suffered emotional wounds and took their own lives. 

Sweet said the monument will be a "touchstone for the lessons that we learned" from Canada's participation in the Afghanistan conflict, especially about post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We learned that operational stress injuries are things not to be shunned, but they're things to be dealt with just the same as a physical injury is," he said.

Glenn Gibson, honourary lieutenant colonel of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, emceed a ceremony to announce a monument honouring those who've been part of Canada's military operations in Afghanistan. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Tassi read aloud the names of the four men who will be especially honoured with the monument.

"I want to acknowledge that mental health issues played a role in two of these deaths," she said. "I think it's an important thing to say and to respect. We need to do much more to help veterans and servicepeople who suffer from mental illness."

"Hamiltonians really have lost sight of the importance of the military, not only in the distant past, but in the present," said Hamilton East Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina.

"Here we have a great moment in our history in terms of reacquainting Hamiltonians and Canadians with their history."

There are other LAV IIIs being installed elsewhere in Canada as monuments to the fallen in the Afghanistan conflict.

The families of Graham and Stark also attended.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett