A ceremony to remember

23/08/2019 Posted by admin

by Melanie de Klerk

Today, I had my first taste of Afghanistan outside Kandahar Airfield, suiting up in a bullet-proof vest, joining other journalists to take a trip to Ma’ Sum Ghar aboard a Chinook helicopter transport. This too was a first for me as I had never been on military aircraft before.

As we approached the loading ramp, a wall of searing heat hit me as the rotors turned. Sitting firmly in my seat I watched out the back at a gunner who sat at the ready while we slowly lifted off. I was surprised at how low to the ground we flew, traversing lush green fields interspersed with stunning sand dunes framed by mountains. As we approached our ultimate destination, the gunner got up and removed something from a container. He unfurled a Saskatchewan flag as another helicopter pulled up from behind and snapped a photo. Undoubtedly an amazing picture from the other side. I was told that apparently the pilot of the chopper was from Saskatchewan and I suspect it was a bit of a show for the media on board.

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HangZhou Night Net

The excitement of my first Chinook flight soon dissipated as the occasion was one of remembrance and sorrow. In 2007 American and South African Soldiers built a rock mural in the shape of a Canadian flag to commemorate the sacrifices Canadian soldiers had made in the area around Ma’ Sum Ghar. It was Ma’Sum Ghar where the blood of many Canadian soldiers have soaked the earth. It is also the place where the first NATO led offensive in Afghanistan, Operation Medusa was launched from.

As the sun set, bringing relief from the heat of the day, the names of 72 Canadian soldiers were slowly read out, while stones representing those fallen soldiers were taken from the rock mural by colleagues and buried. Nearing the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, today’s ceremony was a touching way to mark the sacrifices that Canadian soldiers have made on Afghan soil.

A view of the Rock Mural at Ma’Sum Ghar

Chinook helicopter on the ground

The vidw out the back of the Chinook

Melanie is Global National’s research supervisor, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @emmyjd2.

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