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Afghanistan memorial coming to Durham

Current members of the Canadian forces, along with numerous veterans, were on hand for the launch of a campaign to bring a monument to memorialize those lost in the war in Afghanistan to Durham Region.

Current members of the Canadian forces, along with numerous veterans, were on hand for the launch of a campaign to bring a monument to memorialize those lost in the war in Afghanistan to Durham Region.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

They were a common sight in the war in Afghanistan. Now, a light armoured vehicle (LAV) may soon be finding itself a new home near Highway 401.

Political dignitaries of all stripes, along with members of the military, are joining forces in the Highway of Heroes Durham LAV campaign, which would bring the decommissioned military vehicle to the region and have it installed as a memorial to those who served in Afghanistan.

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The guest of the night was General Rick Hillier, the former commander of the forces, who tells The Oshawa Express that more needs to be done not only in Durham, but across the country, to better recognize veterans.

Among those at the fundraising launch at the R.S. McLaughlin Armoury was General Rick Hillier, the former commander of Canada’s armed forces.

The retired general tells The Oshawa Express that such a memorial would help Canadians remember the sacrifice made by those in uniform not only in Afghanistan, but in other conflicts in years past.

“Tens and hundreds and thousands of Canadians will get to see that (memorial) and maybe reflect for an instant on the fact that young men and women serve in the armed forces and the great freedoms and privileges we have in this country are not free, and that it took service and sacrifice – lots of sacrifice – to give us those privileges and freedoms, and maybe they’ll think just for a minute about the soldiers…that served in those fighting vehicles and what sacrifice they gave us as a nation,” he says.

“Maybe they’ll appreciate it a little bit more, and maybe somewhere down the road they’ll do something about that, whether it’s thank a soldier or go to a Remembrance Day ceremony, study on the incredible history of those men and women and uniform, but at least appreciate what they’ve done.”

Hillier adds that the memorial will be a small token of appreciation for those who served, adding that much more needs to be done for Canada’s veterans.

“We need to get right what we’re doing with our veterans. That is part of remembering and appreciating, and we still don’t have that part right. I actually think we need a royal commission. This is so important, not in how the government is looking after the veterans of Canada, but how our nation is. It’s more comprehensive than just the government of Canada. We need to lay out what it is we need to do, what it is that we’re doing now and where are the gaps,” he says.

One of the spearheads of the drive is Durham MP and veteran Erin O'Toole.

One of the spearheads of the drive is Durham MP and veteran Erin O’Toole.

“No matter which government we have in power, which party we have in power, hold them accountable for looking after the veterans and soldiers and sailors and air men and women and their families in an appropriate manner.”

Currently, the official groundbreaking ceremony for the monument, which will be located near the Waverly Road exit off Highway 401 in Clarington, is Sept. 24.

Durham Region will not be the lone community with such a monument. The LAV Monument Project, a national initiative by Canada Company, a charitable organization, that “serves to build the bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian military,” according to a news release, aims to bring demilitarized and decommissioned LAV III hulls to various communities across the country that apply for them.

Similar memorials are currently planned in Fredericton, Quinte West and London, home of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which constructs the LAV III.