If you happened to wander by your local Royal Canadian Legion branch this August you might have seen a heartening sight—recently returned veterans of Canada’s war in Afghanistan receiving a proper welcome home party.
From Kamloops to Carleton Place to Port-aux-Basques, Aug. 20 was, this year, a time to give recognition to Canada’s military members for their staunch participation in the combat mission in Kandahar Province, 2006-2011.
The Legion’s effort to thank Afghan veterans for their service became a nationwide campaign under the direction of Dominion Command President Pat Varga. In the end, well over 100 branches across Canada signed up to officially take part in the initiative.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the Legion once again to take the lead in providing our collective thanks to our troops,” said Varga. “As the combat mission in Afghanistan transitions into other military activities, The Royal Canadian Legion would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to those servicemen and women, and their families, who have served with distinction and sacrificed on behalf of Canadians during these past several years.”
Dominion Command made a special effort, in partnership with the Canadian Forces, to ensure that an Afghanistan veteran would be available to attend each branch Appreciation Event to speak and share memories of what it was like to deploy to Afghanistan. Dominion Command also placed advertisements in newspapers across the country in order to publicize the events.
For the veterans that did make an appearance, not only were there such niceties as commemorative limited-edition Afghanistan ball caps, but there was also a complimentary one-year Legion membership in the Dominion Command branch, entitling the veteran to six free issues of Legion Magazine.
Participating branches were given special authorization to use a small portion of their Poppy Trust Fund to fund the welcome home party.
A special page on Facebook was also set up at www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Royal-Canadian-Legion/147392072004980.
These appreciation events were created “to remember those who have fallen, thank those who have returned and to celebrate how proud you and your families have made us to be Canadian,” said Varga.
With the combat mission now over, the Canadian Forces will be focused on training Afghan security forces in and around Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. That mission, comprised of several hundred troops, mostly serving behind-the-wire, is scheduled to run until 2014.