By Steven Fouchard, Directorate of Army Public Affairs –
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) are holding a rededication ceremony of the Kandahar Cenotaph in the Afghanistan Memorial Hall (AMH) in Ottawa, with the families of the Fallen and other invited guests in attendance. It will take place on Saturday, 17 August, 2019. The Afghanistan Memorial Hall is located at the National Defence Headquarters (Carling) (NDHQ[Carling]) at 60 Moodie Drive in Ottawa’s west end.
Families and guests will travel to Ottawa the day before and each family will be met by a military escort when they arrive. This escort will be available to assist the family for the duration of the two-day event. Spiritual support will be available if needed. Each guest will also receive a poppy to be laid on the Kandahar Cenotaph during their visit. Prior to the ceremony, guests will able to view a video montage of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The montage will highlight Canadian accomplishments in rebuilding Afghanistan, followed by a visual history of the Kandahar Cenotaph, which is at the heart of the AMH.
As the rededication ceremony of the Kandahar Cenotaph begins, so will the live stream on various DND/CAF social media platforms to ensure all Canadians have the opportunity to watch as well. The ceremony will include a video montage of our Fallen, official addresses by dignitaries and government officials, prayers led by the Chaplain General, two minutes of silence, a flypast by the Royal Canadian Air Force in a missing man formation, and a wreath-laying ceremony.
Following the rededication ceremony, a reception will be held nearby and the AMH will be open exclusively for family and invited guests to take as much time as they need, with spiritual support available throughout the day. As the ceremony is on the weekend, parking remains free.
Exclusive Family Visit
There will be additional viewing opportunities on Sunday, 18 August, 2019 when the AMH will be open for the families and invited guests from 0700 to 1000 hrs.
Public Viewing Day
A public viewing of the Kandahar Cenotaph will take place on Sunday, 18 August, 2019 from 1000 to 1900 hrs at the AMH, immediately following the family visit. On this day only, members of the public will be given guided access to the AMH without registering in advance. Members of the public can also schedule a visit at other times if they are not able to come on 18 August, 2019.
Defence Team Visits
Members of the Defence Team are also encouraged to visit the Kandahar Cenotaph on 18 August, 2019, and to spread the word to others who may be interested in visiting as well. Please note that personnel may also visit the cenotaph at any time during NDHQ(Carling) business hours.
A Brief History of the Afghanistan Memorial Hall and the Kandahar Cenotaph
The cenotaph was unveiled in its earliest form on Remembrance Day 2003 at Camp Julien, CAF’s encampment in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Designed by Combat Engineer Captain Sean McDowell, the cenotaph was initially dedicated to the first six Canadian soldiers killed – Private Richard Anthony Green, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, Sergeant Marc Daniel Léger and Private Nathan Lloyd Smith (killed on 17 April, 2002); and Sergeant Robert Short and Corporal Robbie Beerenfenger (killed 2 October, 2003).
The cenotaph originally consisted of a two-tonne boulder taken from the site where Sgt Short and Cpl Beerenfenger were killed when their jeep struck a mine. Two large marble slabs with the engraved inscription “Dedicated to Those Canadians Who gave their Lives in the Service of Peace While Serving in Afghanistan” in French and English were also added to the monument.
The cenotaph was placed to be in the view of successive mission commanders as a reminder of their profound responsibilities. It was relocated to the Kandahar Airfield in 2005 following the closure of Camp Julien, and expanded over the years with further dedications to other fallen soldiers.
A redesigned cenotaph was unveiled in Kandahar on 11 November, 2006. The original stone was placed on a platform, with two wooden wings sitting perpendicular to it, each bearing plaques honouring the Fallen. Short marble walls bearing the same inscriptions were added to replace the original marble slabs. The cenotaph was the focal point of Remembrance Day ceremonies at both locations.
Over the course of the mission, relatives of the fallen soldiers were flown to Afghanistan by the Government of Canada to visit the site to pay their respects.
Remembrance Day 2008 saw the addition of a bas-relief image by artist Sylvia Pecota, depicting an angel caring for a dying soldier. A pair of marble columns adorned with additional plaques to the Fallen and the flags of Canada and Afghanistan were also added.
The cenotaph was further expanded in 2010 with the addition of two new sections dedicated to American soldiers killed while serving under Canadian command.
In 2011, the cenotaph measured 21 metres long by eight metres deep and federal officials began discussing bringing it home to Canada for permanent display. Following Remembrance Day ceremonies at Kandahar Airfield that year, military engineers spent two weeks carefully dismantling it and produced detailed drawings and photographs to ensure it would be properly rebuilt. The original stone centrepiece, along with Ms. Pecota’s bas-relief image, was kept in Afghanistan until the mission’s end to serve as a temporary memorial.
Public viewings of the cenotaph were held across Canada and in Washington, D.C. in May 2014, following the declaration of 9 May 2014 as a National Day of Honour to mark the end of the Afghanistan mission.
Construction of the Afghanistan Memorial Hall at National Defence Headquarters (Carling) began in May 2017. The August 2019 rededication event follows an earlier building opening ceremony held 13 May, 2019 for military and federal government officials. While it was intended as a modest and solemn occasion, the event was criticized by some military families and media.
General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, issued an apology, saying, “Sadly, in trying to do the right thing by getting the Hall opened quickly so people, especially families of the Fallen, could arrange to visit, we alienated and angered these same people. Importantly, we also utterly failed to communicate the intent to hold an inclusive event in the future, following the opening of the Hall, to properly dedicate the memorial.”
“To each and to all,” he added, “we offer our deepest apologies, and ask for forgiveness. We will be seeking input from the families of the Fallen on how best to conduct the dedication.”
The Afghanistan Memorial Hall was opened to guided visits as of 26 May, 2019. Visits must be booked in advance and members of the public can find out how to do so by referring to the website.
The Department of Canadian Heritage, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the National Capital Commission announced in late June 2019 that a site had been chosen for the public memorial to the Afghanistan mission. The approved location is in Ottawa across the street from the Canadian War Museum. Planning for the $5 million project, including a national design competition, is in its early stages. Design work is expected to start in the coming months, with the memorial unveiling now scheduled for the fall of 2023.
More than 40,000 CAF members served in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2014, making it Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World War. Along with the 158 Canadian soldiers killed were a Canadian diplomat, a DND civilian contractor, a Canadian journalist embedded with the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as 42 United States armed forces members and one American civilian serving under Canadian command.
More information about the Kandahar Cenotaph and the Afghanistan Memorial Hall may be found on the official website.
Photo: CFSU(O) IMAGING SERVICES/Leading Seaman Anne-Marie Brisson
This post is also available in: Français (French)