KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN To the skirl of a lone bagpiper, Canadian troops in Afghanistan bowed their heads Monday to mark the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.
Only hours after losing six of their comrades to a roadside bomb, the troops were told there are parallels between the sacrifices they're making in Kandahar and those of Canadians during the First World War.
“We found our way among nations in 1917. Now we are finding our way on the international stage,” said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Task Force Afghanistan.
“We are doing good things in tough parts of the world.”
The ceremony was held near a small cenotaph that contains the pictures and names of 45 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat who have been killed in Afghanistan since April, 2002.
Soon the names and pictures of six more troops, all members of Hotel company, will be added to the marble monument.
Sgt. Donald Lucas, Cpl. Aaron Williams, Pte. Kevin Vincent Kennedy and Pte. David Robert Greenslade, all of the Gagetown, N.B.-based 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, died Sunday in the explosion along with Cpl. Christopher Paul Stannix, a reservist with the Halifax-based Princess Louise Fusiliers.
The identity of the sixth victim was not released at the request of his next of kin.
The troops died when their LAV-3 light armoured vehicle was destroyed in the Maywand district near the border with Helmand province.
The explosion also caused serious but non-life-threatening injuries to one Canadian soldier and light injuries to another.
After the ceremony, Col. Cessford said Canada has a history of making sacrifices.
He said the wounded man and the rest of the company must now get on with their jobs.
“They are good to go. In theatre we are moving ahead with the mission,” he said.
Barely hiding his sadness, Col. Cessford said the soldiers who died in the roadside bomb explosion knew the risks they were taking but still stepped forward to make a difference.
The military will review the details of the blast to see if there are any lessons to be learned.
Col. Cessford stressed that the soldiers will not lose faith in the LAV-3 vehicles that make up the backbone of Canada's armoured force.
The eight-wheeled, light armoured troop carrier is fast and nimble, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/h.
In Afghanistan, LAV-3s have weathered many roadside bombs and suicide car bomb blasts, usually limping away with a few destroyed tires.
“The troops retain enormous confidence in the capability of this vehicle,” he said.