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Flags lowered to mark end of Afghanistan mission

Events held at local schools and St. Albert Place

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Friday, Mar 14, 2014 04:30 pm

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  • FLAG CEREMONY – Local Air Cadet 533 Squadron members lower the Canadian flag at St. Albert Place on Thursday evening in conjunction with the end of military operations by Canadian troops in Kabul, Afghanistan.
    FLAG CEREMONY – Local Air Cadet 533 Squadron members lower the Canadian flag at St. Albert Place on Thursday evening in conjunction with the end of military operations by Canadian troops in Kabul, Afghanistan.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • FLAG LOWERED – Dignitaries including Premier Alison Redford stand for a flag ceremony at Guthrie School at Edmonton Garrison on Wednesday. Flags were lowered at schools and institutions throughout the region to mark the end of Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan.
    FLAG LOWERED – Dignitaries including Premier Alison Redford stand for a flag ceremony at Guthrie School at Edmonton Garrison on Wednesday. Flags were lowered at schools and institutions throughout the region to mark the end of Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan.
  • PROUD CANADIAN – Erica Ramey sits on the lap of her mother Cheryl during a ceremony at Guthrie School at Edmonton Garrison on Wednesday. Erica's father is a member of the military and the ceremony was to commemorate the end of Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
    PROUD CANADIAN – Erica Ramey sits on the lap of her mother Cheryl during a ceremony at Guthrie School at Edmonton Garrison on Wednesday. Erica's father is a member of the military and the ceremony was to commemorate the end of Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
  • MILITARY MAN – Master Cpl. Henk Rowe sits with his four-year-old son Benjamin during a ceremony at Guthrie School Wednesday. Rowe has 24 years of military service and was away in Afghanistan while his wife was pregnant with their daughter.
    MILITARY MAN – Master Cpl. Henk Rowe sits with his four-year-old son Benjamin during a ceremony at Guthrie School Wednesday. Rowe has 24 years of military service and was away in Afghanistan while his wife was pregnant with their daughter.

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Flags were lowered at schools and institutions across the region this week to mark the end of Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. A ceremony at Edmonton Garrison’s Guthrie School was held on Wednesday in conjunction with one during which Canadian troops removed the maple leaf at NATO headquarters in Kabul.

Dr. Audrey Burrows, counsellor at the school, said that it was a great relief to the family members of military personnel, as deployment of troops is very stressful for everyone. She called the flag lowering a sombre celebration that the war had ended but with a heavy cost.

“The remaining troops get to come home but it’s bittersweet because some of the families in attendance did lose loved ones over there. It brings back lots of emotions,” she said.

It has been reported that the remaining Canadian personnel were scheduled to leave by the end of the week. There were 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors who lost their lives over the course of this country’s involvement in Afghanistan.

The war began with this country’s participation in the search for Osama bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda. This transitioned into a combat mission based in Kandahar. Over the entire period, as many as 40,000 Canadian troops were sent to participate.

Shawna Walter, Guthrie’s acting vice-principal, elaborated on the impact of the occasion.

“It was a very emotional day, and it was absolutely fantastic. For me, it was a fantastic eye-opening experience just to listen to parents and kids talking about… the impact that it had on families, being separated.”

Other ceremonies

David Keohane said that the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools held a district-wide event that started with a flag lowering to half-mast right at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Attendees then held a prayer for the 162 Canadians who were killed during the mission.

That was followed by other events at each of the schools. He elaborated that Bertha Kennedy Elementary, for instance, had an educational component that included presentations and a ceremony that saw various students carrying flags to signify the lives lost.

“It was important to me and to the school board because this event has touched so closely to the lives of people that as best as possible the local community could really be a part of this. We have heroes among us who have contributed. People have lost loved ones through this.”

There were other ceremonies held in the St. Albert Public School district as well.

The 533 Royal Canadian Air Cadet squadron also held a similar ceremony at St. Albert Place on Thursday evening. Capt. Andrew Lejeune said that the timing was different for them because they wanted to hold it on their regular parade night.

The squadron of approximately 80 cadets was in full dress uniform for the occasion. It was important to show respect. The full weight of the moment hit home for many of them.

“We do have a number of regular force volunteers that the cadets work with quite closely. They fully understand what’s going on having grown up in military families and working in a military environment with the cadet program.”


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