Canada's airforce base in Winnipeg marked the first National Day of Honour with ceremony and speeches that recognized the country's mission to Afghanistan today.
Under clear skies and a chilly north wind, about 200 men and women, including veterans and American airmen from NORAD, observed two minutes of silence for the event, one of several held in the city and across the country.
Canada's 12-year mission saw 40,000 Canadian soldiers and support personnel serve in Afghanistan, the largest military presence since the Second World War. Invited dignitaries included Conservative MP Steven Fletcher whose riding,Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, includes 17 Wing, Canada's airforce base in Winnipeg.
"Every single one of those people were volunteers," Fletcher said, emphasizing the veterans' commitment. "Nobody had to go, but Canada, Canadians and our military families stepped up and helped meet Canada's military obligation," Fletcher said.
The government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered some criticism for its decision to single out the Afghan conflict for a special day of tribute, separate from the annual Remembrance Day events that honour Canada's war dead.
In Winnipeg, the senior general at the event said the National Day of Honour was a way for the country to honour the largest military commitment since the Second World War.
"After 12 long years, every one of those 40,000 who served have come home," said Major-General Pierre St-Amand, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region.
One hundred fifty eight Canadian soldiers lost their lives in battle. One diplomat, a journalist and two civilian contractors also died before the mission ended two months ago.
Brookside Cemetery’s Field of Honour was also part of the nationally coordinated ceremony just after the noon hour. The ceremony was conducted by the Army Reservists from 38 Canadian Brigade Group.
Following that, the Norwood St. Boniface Branch Legion #43 hosted an intimate ceremony at Legion House Museum (134 Marion Street).