Our Government is proud to honour those who served in Afghanistan as well as the families that were their strength back on the home front. To this end, on March 18, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that May 9, 2014, had been declared a National Day of Honour by Royal Proclamation.
The following activities will take place as part of the National Day of Honour to commemorate the strength, bravery and accomplishments of the more than 40, 000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who served in Afghanistan for over 12 years:
Soldier On Afghanistan Relay
From May 4 to 9, a relay team of 18 ill and injured veterans and one civilian are participating in the Soldier On Afghanistan Relay. This relay highlights the personal strength, endurance and commitment of those who served, as well as the importance of community.
The relay participants will be carrying the last flag from Afghanistan in a specially built baton to be passed on through communities between Trenton and Ottawa, including Napanee, Kingston, Perth, Kanata and Gatineau. The relay will end with the baton being passed to Major General Dean J. Milner, the last Task Force Commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, during the parade in Ottawa. The flag will then be presented to General Thomas J. Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, and to Prime Minister Harper, who will accept the flag on behalf of Canadians.
True Patriot Love Breakfast
True Patriot Love – an organization that honours the sacrifices of members of the Canadian Forces, Veterans and their families – has organized a private breakfast for Families of the Fallen on the morning of May 9.
Service for the Fallen in the Senate
After the True Patriot Love Breakfast, the Families of the Fallen will participate in a private ceremony within Senate Chambers with His Excellency the Right Honourable
David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, and General Lawson. This event will recognize the fallen in a formal way and tie their sacrifices to Parliament.
National Day of Honour Parade
The National Day of Honour parade will begin at 12:30 p.m. on May 9 adjacent to the War Museum in Ottawa, and will proceed along Wellington Street to Parliament Hill. The Parade will include 300 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, 32 RCMP and local police, and 50 civilians who deployed as part of the mission in Afghanistan.
They will be joined at Bank and Wellington streets by a contingent of non-serving veterans of the mission to Afghanistan. The parade will be accompanied by the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royale 22nd Regimental Band, the RCMP Pipes and Drums and the Correctional Service Canada Community Service Band.
The parade will arrive on Parliament Hill to be received by the Governor General of Canada at 1:00 p.m., where there will be a vice regal inspection of the parade, along with a 21-gun salute.
Two Minutes of Silence
Following the parade, a single gun shot will signal two minutes of national silence at 1:30 p.m. to reflect upon the sacrifices made during the mission.
The Royal Canadian Air Force will conduct fly-bys of several military aircraft, including the CP 140 (Maritime Patrol Aircraft), CC-177 (Globemaster), CC150 (Airbus), C130 (Hercules), two CH-146 (Griffon Helicopters) and the CH-147 (Chinook).
The first fly-by will take place following the two minutes of silence. A second fly-by will mark the end of the program, following the National Anthem.
Parliament Hill will be host to a number of displays highlighting the materiel employed by the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan, including a CH-147 Chinook Helicopter, a Leopard II Main Battle Tank, a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), as well as displays by the Canadian Special Forces, Canadian Military Engineers, a Canadian Military medical display, and a display from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
These displays highlight the scope of the contribution made by Canada to Afghanistan over the course of more than a decade in that country, in addition to demonstrating our Government’s commitment to providing the men and women of our armed forces with the equipment they needed to do their jobs.
Key equipment acquired from 2006 included the Leopard II tank, which provided a badly needed heavy capability for the army and unparalleled protection for our troops, and the Chinook heavy-lift helicopter, which afforded our forces with the ability to move by air and avoid hazardous road travel when that was unnecessary.
The Government also acquired transport aircraft, such as the heavy-lift C-17 aircraft, which were so vital to supply our troops and to sustain the mission.
All of these capabilities remain vital components of our national defence capacity today.
Afghanistan Memorial Vigil
The Afghanistan Memorial Vigil, which was unveiled on Parliament Hill last summer by then-Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Peter MacKay, will be set up in the Hall of Honour in Centre Block during the parade. This vigil consists of the original plaques from the Cenotaph in Kandahar and commemorates the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of CAF members during Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. It also recognizes the support of military families, friends and all Canadians. It contains 190 plaques representing 201 fallen. This includes 158 Canadian Armed Forces’ members, one Canadian diplomat, one Canadian civilian contractor, one Canadian journalist and 40 United States Armed Forces members who were under Canadian command.
Significant outreach has also taken place to promote the National Day of Honour. The Prime Minister has written to every Legion in the country, notifying members of the two minutes of silence, denoting the significance of the day, and encouraging local chapters to work with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to host local events to build on the National Day of Honour.
Premiers and the mayors of Canada’s 100 largest municipalities have also been informed in addition to each Party Leader in Parliament. Members of Parliament have also been encouraged to organize, host or participate in local events in their ridings across Canada.
Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, also undertook extensive outreach to key Veteran stakeholders and to tens of thousands of school groups, educators and youth groups.
Minister Nicholson also reached out to several groups, including the Families of the Fallen.
Canadians across the country can participate in the National Day of Honour by attending events at local military bases or legion halls, organizing their own community event via their Member of Parliament, or visiting the website to access educational and teaching resources to inspire students to learn more about our national history.