Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fallen soldiers' parents call for troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011

Ethan Baron, Canwest News Service

Published: Saturday, April 03, 2010

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After an emotional Easter-weekend ceremony to honour nine Canadian soldiers who have fallen in recent years, parents of dead sons called for Canada's troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011.

While military brass continue to assert Canada's mission has made significant headway toward stabilizing Afghanistan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated as recently as Tuesday that all Canadian troops will leave the war-torn country by the end of next year, to be replaced by diplomatic and aid workers.

"Mr. Harper, you've still got to have security," said Myles Kennedy, whose son, Pte. Kevin Kennedy, was killed on Easter Sunday in 2007.

Withdrawing all the soldiers would "send the wrong message to the world," said Mr. Kennedy, a high-school teacher in northern British Columbia who came to Afghanistan with his wife, Kay, and attended Saturday's ceremony.

"If you look at our history, we always went in with strong moral causes, and we went in to do a job," Mr. Kennedy said.

"Our job will not be complete if [Harper] pulls out the whole group. We have to maintain some type of military presence for security, and . . . to let the world know that we haven't really abandoned this mission."

Other parents among the 18 family members flown here for the ceremony expressed similar views on the withdrawal.

Theresa Charbonneau, whose son, Cpl. Andrew Grenon, died in September 2008, said she wants Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight the global terrorist threat. Grenon had written a poem that ended with the words, "I fight so my children won't have to," she said.

"One hundred forty-one Canadian lives have been lost. The journalist has been lost. The diplomat has been lost. I don't want their deaths to be in vain," she said. "I don't want to see (Afghanistan) collapse. If by staying longer we can help that not happen . . . I would like to see that."

The parents' statements followed a 45-minute tribute to Grenon, Kennedy, Cpl. Stephen Bouzane, Cpl. Mark McLaren, Sgt. Gregory Kruse, Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, Sgt. Vaughan Ingram, Cpl. David Braun and Cpl. Aaron Williams.

"It is easy to use words like service and sacrifice," Canadian Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said to the family members seated facing the cenotaph outside the Task Force Kandahar headquarters. "As you know, it is quite another thing to live and breathe those words every day.

"Every time we step out on patrol, we know that each and every name on this monument is watching over us. I would like to highlight the effect that your presence has on the men and women in theatre. Your presence gives comfort to them, just as I hope that your time here will give you some comfort as well."

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