St. Marys Journal Argus
Naomi Pearson, a fourth-year student in Peace and Conflict Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, has learned enough to know that the experiences, sacrifices and struggles of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are worth remembering and acknowledging. That’s why she was at a low-key ceremony on Friday, May 9 at the St. Marys Town Hall Cenotaph, coming forward with a bouquet of flowers after dignitaries had done their duties, in what was an unplanned but certainly welcome conclusion for the event’s organizers.
“I’ve had the opportunity to interview a lot of soldiers who served in Afghanistan, as well as some civilians who lived there during the Canadian mission,” Pearson, a St. Marys area resident, told the Journal Argus after the May 9 ceremony.
She added her cousin worked at the Tim Hortons coffee outlet at the Canadian Forces-run Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
Thomas Neill, a Stratford resident who served six six-month tours of duty in Afghanistan for a private contractor under the Canadian Armed Forces’ Contractor Augmentation Program, attended the Cenotaph ceremony — as well as another ceremony that evening at the local Army and Navy club on Wellington Street — and was quick to reach out and shake Pearson’s hand after her supportive gesture. He nodded enthusiastically when she suggested the Canadian government is not doing enough to support soldiers’ physical and psychological needs as they return from the mission.
Also coming to thank Pearson was Deputy Mayor Don Van Galen, who participated — along with Mayor Steve Grose, local Royal Canadian Legion branch president Kelvin Chambers, and Army and Navy 3rd Vice President Provincial Command Phil Anderton of St. Marys — as one of the dignitaries in the Town Hall ceremony. Van Galen read out a poem composed by St. Marys DCVI student Bronte Cronsberry entitled “Aftermath.”
In his address, Grose also made special note of the soldiers who have returned from the conflict-torn country with physical and psychological scars.
“They will live this for the rest of their lives,” the St. Marys mayor said.
He added that, although the Day of Honour was organized nation-wide as a one-time recognition of the conclusion of Canada’s mission, it’s possible that the St. Marys event will continue in some form on an annual basis.
One hundred and fifty-eight Canadians lost their lives during the Afghanistan mission.