Despite short notice, more than a dozen people attended an event held Friday at Clearwater Legion Hall as part of the National Day of Honor for Afghanistan veterans.
“This is close to my heart and to my family’s heart,” said Clearwater Mayor John Harwood, noting that his brother-in-law had served two terms in Afghanistan.
“this was a noble cause war,” Harwood said. “Canada stood up for young women who desired an opportunity for an education.”
“We need to stand up for the young people who served. They sometimes need encouragement to seek help,” he said.
“They richly deserve all the support we can give them.”
The mayor’s comments were echoed by Legion representative Joe Short.
A total of 40,000 Canadians served during Canada’s 12 years in Afghanistan, Short said. Of these, 800 were wounded and 158 killed.
Several thousand Canadian families now have to deal with veterans who were wounded and/or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The war has not ended for those people,” Short said. “The atrocities over there were so horrible, they see things we do no see.
“They shut their families out and turn to alcohol to ease the pain. When that does not work, they turn to drugs. When that does not work, they die by their own hands,” the Legion representative said.
There needs to be more counselling available for veterans, their spouses and their -families, Short said, and it needs to be easily available.
He noted that veterans living in Clearwater need to travel to Kelowna or Penticton to see the nearest counsellor.
“Some of these people came back physically healthy, but mentally they died in Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”