The young cadets saluted as O Canada was sung; heads were bowed in silent respect and divine blessing was humbly requested.
A wreath and a Canadian flag were placed by the grave of a fallen soldier at Erin Union Cemetery as Legion Branch 442 joined in the National Day of Honour for Afghanistan Veterans on May 9.
Lieutenant William Turner is buried with his father and grandparents, just across from the former family farm on the Ninth Line.
He had worked as a research assistant at the University of Guelph, as forensic lab technician in Hamilton and as a teacher and letter carrier in Alberta. An avid cyclist and a Canadian Forces Reserve Officer in Guelph and Edmonton, he accepted a position with the Civilian Military Cooperation unit, providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Afghanistan.
Turner died on April 22, 2006 at the age of 45 with three other members of the Canadian Forces after a roadside bomb destroyed their armoured vehicle: Corporal Matthew David James Dinning, 23, of Richmond Hill, Bombardier Myles Stanley John Mansell, 25, of Victoria and Corporal Randy Payne, 32 of Gananoque.
Joining the service last week were Turner’s uncles, Dennis Turner of Milton and Jim Smith of Ballinafad, and his cousin Gary Wallace of Port Credit.
Turner was one of the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in the Afghanistan mission, among the 40,000 who served over 12 years.
At the service, the wreath was placed by Ken and Carol Paisley, the Act of Remembrance said by Legion President Rose Ostrander, and the Legion Memorial Marker and Canadian Flag placed by Service Officer Doug Kirkwood.
“We take time to remember our continuing obligation to support those who returned home and continue to suffer the effects of war,” said Legion Chaplain, Rev. Deacon Irene Walback.
She urged people to support programs including Leave the Streets Behind for homeless or near-homeless veterans, and to “encourage those who govern our great country to relieve the pain of our service men and women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
We seem to be a distracted society. Many people were so engrossed in their personal business that they didn’t truly appreciate that the nation was at war. How many are even aware of the veterans who have taken their own lives as a result of the trauma?
We say we are proud to be Canadians, but how many are willing to even cast a ballot? We say we are glad to live in a democracy, but how many are prepared to die for it? How many would sacrifice themselves for the benefit of people on the other side of the planet?
It is a unique moment of history, in which we enjoy the right to scrutinize the decisions of our government, as it plays its small part upon the world stage.
Sacrifices on the battlefield, however, quite properly transcend political debate. Laying down one’s life for others, and for cherished ideals, is always worthy of respect. Here is a portion of the final prayer by Rev. Walback:
“O God, we remember before you those Canadian men and women who laid down their lives for the people of Afghanistan during the fight for truth and freedom.
“We commend their souls into your gracious keeping and pray that we may be worthy of their sacrifice. Help us to be faithful and true to those ideals for which they fought and died, and for which the living continue to suffer.
“May we continue to perpetuate the memory of our departed comrades by service to our country Canada, to world peace and the care of all your Creation.”