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Legion asks public to help pick design for new Afghanistan memorial

'With the movement toward creating this memorial, it re-solidifies in the Afghanistan veterans’ minds that what we did is still being recognized'

Moose Jaw’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 59 is encouraging residents to complete an online survey to help pick a design for a national monument that honours Canada’s role in Afghanistan. 

The monument will be built in Ottawa, located on the east side of Booth Street, north of the National Holocaust Monument and across the street from the Canadian War Museum. 

More than 40,000 Canadian Forces personnel served in the mountainous Central Asian country from 2001 to 2014, with 158 soldiers killed and more than 2,000 wounded during the conflict. Seven Canadian civilians were also killed while in-country.   

The competition for an Afghanistan memorial began in August 2019, when the federal government invited professionals from the design community to provide their credentials and samples of their work. In summer 2020, a jury composed of experts in arts and urban design and representatives from stakeholder groups shortlisted five teams to create the monument design. 

Click here to view the options and complete the survey.

To have a new Afghanistan memorial will be fantastic, said Justin Edison, a veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2010 and executive member of Branch No. 59. The first monument dedicated to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and those who died was originally placed inside the Department of National Defence headquarters, but because this is a secure building, it didn’t allow for easy public access.

“It’s hard for veterans and loved ones of people who served in Afghanistan to go and commemorate and reflect upon their service or their loved one’s service in Afghanistan,” he continued. “So, the option of them creating a more pronounced and accessible memorial is a great endeavour.”

Edison has reviewed the five options and believes each is beautiful and has significance and meaning. However, he prefers the options that list the soldiers and civilians who died in the Central Asian country. He believes those names should always be remembered. 

Being forgotten is a concern for Afghan veterans since they saw what happened to veterans who served and fought in Bosnia in the 1990s, he continued. It has only been in the last few years that the wider public has recognized the Battle of Medak Pocket. 

“With the movement toward creating this memorial, it re-solidifies in the Afghanistan veterans’ minds that what we did is still being recognized and will be for that in just the few years that have passed,” added Edison. 

Creating this monument is a wonderful idea, while each of the designs looks good, said Legion president Roy LaBuick. It’s important to do this since there have been many conflicts and missions in which military personnel have served since the Second World War and Korean War. 

“We have to do more than just honour our World War II and Korean veterans by also honouring this generation of veterans that we have that have served their country (and) sacrificed an awful lot in the service of our country,” he continued. 

“I think it’s a wonderful initiative. (It’s) a long-time coming, a very long time coming.” 

LaBuick added that he was excited to see what the final design would be.