WATCH: Global News has learned the Canadian government is about to unveil a memorial program to honour veterans of the war in Afghanistan, installing light armoured vehicles, or LAVs, at monuments across the country. As Jacques Bourbeau reports, it’s a tribute long overdue.
OTTAWA – When Afghanistan veteran Jody Mitic thinks of the LAV III – the Light Armoured Vehicle used to support Canadian troops – he thinks of a tough, mobile and effective device.
But most of all, he thinks of protection.
“The sound of that cannon when you’re in trouble is like hearing angels sing,” said Mitic.
The LAV III, which can hit speeds of up to 100 km and contains a 25 mm cannon, also doubled as a grocery store, kitchen and sleeping area for troops on the ground.
“Very few vehicles or platforms on the battlefield can deliver the accuracy and the devastation of power that these things carried,” Mitic said.
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Now the LAV IIIs, having fulfilled their Afghan duty, will take on a new role in Canada – as monuments.
Global News has learned a charitable organization, supported by the federal government, is using up to 250 replicas LAVs to remember the sacrifices of the Afghan mission.
They’ll be displayed in communities across Canada – similar to the Second World War tanks and cannons that now appear near Royal Canadian Legion branches, cenotaphs, military bases and public parks.
The program is expected to be launched Wednesday at Ottawa’s War Museum, spearheaded by the Canada Company, a charitable group that supports the Canadian Forces.
Called the LAV III Monument program, it aims to recognize the service of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and will be the first update to Canadian military monuments in more than 50 years, according to a source with knowledge of the program.
The Conservative government, which has been accused of ignoring the often traumatized Afghan veterans as they return home, supports the initiative morally, but not financially. Instead of cash, it is sharing designs for the replica LAVs and helping to arrange locations for the monuments.
“Our government is committed to honouring the sacrifice and heroism of Canadian veterans,” Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino wrote in an email to Global News.
“The government of Canada supports and is working to facilitate this initiative that honours the sacrifice and service of Canadians who served in Afghanistan.”
Mitic, a former sniper who lost both his legs below the knee and was recently elected an Ottawa city councillor, says the plan will help young Canadians remember the decade-long mission.
“Typically what you see at the cenotaphs and displays are decommissioned tanks, decommissioned artillery pieces from the past, World War One, World War Two, Korea,” he said.
“We just really don’t have anything from Afghanistan that’s been decommissioned. If the funds are available and the will is there to build some replica LAVs, I think that’s an awesome idea. Because it keeps the conflict in people’s minds for the future.
“It’s better to do it now, I think, than in 25 years when kids are asking, ‘What’s Afghanistan?’”
NDP defence critic Jack Harris said he agrees with the program if legions or military bases want the monuments.
But he cautioned that some Afghan veterans may think it’s too soon.
“There are people suffering from PTSD, for example, because they were injured and some of their friends killed in these very equipment. Is this something that they really need to be reminded of on a daily basis?” Harris said.
“It’s very close to the time frame during which this happened. We’re not talking about a Second World War artillery piece. We’re talking about something that’s relatively current in people’s minds.”
– with files from Erika Tucker