Opinion Column

Afghanistan vets deserve our respect, too


Afghanistan is the war of my generation. I have several friends who have served there; some have even done multiple tours of duty. I am in awe of the sacrifices so many of these young soldiers have made: putting their lives in direct harm's way, being separated from loved ones and delaying all those pivotal life experiences so many of us enjoy uninterrupted in our 20s and 30s.

They put their lives on hold-education, career opportunities, marriage and starting a family. The men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces fight for freedom so that others can have the wonderful opportunities and bright futures we are so lucky to have at home.

While the rest of my generation stresses about things like exam marks, graduate school and first jobs, some of our peers have put their country ahead of their personal ambitions. Thinking about the sacrifices these soldiers have made puts everything else in perspective and makes you grateful for the things that really matter.

Instead of planning a wedding like so many other eager brides-to-be, a friend of mine who recently got engaged had to say goodbye to her fiancé while he completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. It makes things like not finding the perfect wedding dress seem beyond trivial in comparison.

With Remembrance Day just passed, we need to recognize those who are serving today. Afghanistan has been Canada's bloodiest conflict since Korea in the 1950s. Between 2002 and 2011, 158 Canadian soldiers were killed.

Most recently fallen was Master Cpl. Byron Greff, who was killed in a suicide bomb attack on October 29, 2011 in Kabul. He was only 26 years old, the same age as me. He sacrificed his future so others could realize theirs.

Most cenotaphs in Canada say "First World War 1914-1918," "Second World War 1939-1945" and "Korea 1950-1953." We should add "Afghanistan 2002-2011."

We must recognize their sacrifice, and thank them each day.