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Soldiers, families, politicians mark Day of Honour on Parliament Hill

Soldiers, their families and dignitaries gathered in Ottawa Friday for Canada’s first National Day of Honour, commemorating the mission in Afghanistan and those injured or killed in service.

Ceremony

The Day of Honour began with a breakfast reception, and was followed by a memorial held in the Senate. There was also a parade and a ceremony on Parliament Hill. Athlete Rick Hansen was one of the co-emcees.

In the morning, Governor-General David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several cabinet ministers joined families of the fallen soldiers in the Senate for the memorial. (See more pictures of the Day of Honour ceremonies)

From right, Governor-General David Johnston, his wife, Sharon, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper attend a National Day of Honour ceremony in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Mr. Harper announced the Day of Honour in March to recognize the 12-year mission in Afghanistan. During the Senate memorial, 12 carnations were placed in a white wreath to honour the mission and those who served in it. “Through this National Day, Canadians will have the opportunity to reflect on the courage and sacrifices made by our soldiers,” Mr. Harper said in a statement announcing the Day of Honour.

After the parades arrived on the Hill and the Governor-General inspected the guard, the military did a 21-gun salute.

During the ceremony, the final Canadian flag to fly in Kandahar (at NATO headquarters) was brought to Ottawa. There was some controversy about who would receive the flag on Parliament Hill. In the end, the Prime Minister was given it, and then he passed it on to the Governor-General, who is Canada’s commander-in-chief.

The Governor-General paid tribute to those who died in the war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Harper told the crowd, “Let me tell all of you how proud I am to stand before you.” He said the conflict was the longest military engagement in Canadian history.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said the day marked the “conclusion of another chapter in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces.” Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson said the mission was “woven into the very fabric of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Veterans

The Canadian mission in Afghanistan claimed the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two contractors (Read the full list). Roughly 2,000 soldiers were injured.

Many veterans, or families of those lost, were in attendance on Parliament Hill.

Military equipment

The event on Parliament Hill also includes a series of military displays, including a Chinook transport helicopter that was landed in the heart of the capital Thursday evening, as well as a tank that had been deployed in Afghanistan and several other armoured vehicles.

During the ceremony, some military planes flew by.

 

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