Afghanistan has suffered unspeakable cruelties and barbarism for more than 20 years, in a civil war that has killed or displaced many millions of Afghan citizens.
There has been significant improvement in the lot of ordinary Afghans in the past decade since a United Nations authorized intervention that has targeted extremist groups such as the Taliban, however, it has come at a cost of foreign military and civilian lives too.
In Canada’s case, our military has taken the biggest share of this loss, with almost all of the 158 Canadians killed in Afghanistan being soldiers.
The debate will rage on this country over whether Canada should have contributed to this effort, but it cannot be denied that every Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan believed he or she was doing the right thing for the right reasons. And in many cases, these veterans can point to evidence that these efforts did bring positive change and a better standard of life for ordinary Afghans.
These positive indicators include improvements to the health care system, such as more access to doctors and health care professionals, and a mass public immunization program that extended throughout the war-ravaged country. They also include construction of numerous schools and the opening of school doors to females. Women are free to be seen in public as well as to work. All legal age citizens may vote in elections.
There is still injustice and a constant threat of violence from groups such as the Taliban, but there are also opportunities that many Afghans have never before seen in their lifetimes.
Canadian soldiers who have seen this firsthand are proud of this accomplishment but are also cognizant of the dear personal costs exacted.
In memory of the 158 Canadians killed in Afghanistan, there will again be a Memorial Ride for the Fallen this Saturday.
The Ubique Unit of the 3rd CAV, Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Units, are putting on the third annual 3 CAV Ubique Memorial Ride for the Fallen on June 9, from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
The CAV is a group that is made up of veterans and veteran supporters that ride side-by-side, saluting the sacrifices of the past, present and future of the Canadian Armed Forces. Last year they unveiled the official “Highway of Heroes” sign on the ride.
The ride will be leaving from the parking lot of Trev Deeley Motorcycles, 1875 Boundary Rd., Vancouver, and will travel up Highway 1 enroute to the All Sappers Cenotaph on the corner of Vedder Rd. and Keith Wilson, Chilliwack, the corner of the former CF Base Chilliwack. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and the registration fee is $20 per vehicle. The ride leaves at 11 a.m. and arrives at the cenotaph at 1 p.m.
There they will hold the memorial service at 2:30 p.m. A padre will conduct the service, with a piper and a bugler present. The 3rd CAV will be laying a wreath for the fallen, as will other invited guests. Silver Cross families who have lost their sons, killed in action in Afghanistan, will be honoured guests.
There will be a reception held at the Area Support Unit, also located on the base, with food and refreshments available, both before and after the service.
This year the Honour House Society will be the recipient charity for this event. Veteran Affairs “Canada Remembers” is supporting the event, as well as numerous members of the military and many local businesses from the lower mainland.
Once again, the same as last year, they are looking forward to seeing people lining the overpasses on Highway 1 with Canadian flags as they ride by.
Cheryl Louden and her family in Aldergrove will be among those who will be waving flags at the 264 Street overpass, when the ride passes by at around noon. Her nephew, Master Cpl. Erin Doyle, 32, was killed Aug. 11, 2008, when insurgents attacked a remote combat outpost in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province. A member of the 3rd battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry based out of Edmonton, it was Doyle’s third tour in Afghanistan.
Doyle was remembered in his hometown of Kamloops on May 25, when a plaque bearing his name was unveiled at the Battle Street cenotaph. It is believed that Doyle is the first Afghanistan war veteran in Canada to be bestowed with such an honour.
Louden encourages lower mainland residents to show their respect by waving Canadian flags from any of the overpasses between Vancouver and Chilliwack this Saturday when the rides passes by.
The ride is open to everyone, with bikes in the lead, cars to follow.
“It’s a chance for the Lower Mainland to once again show their support for the troops and to pay respect to those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the families of the fallen,” said spokesman Barry Drews.