National Day of Honour
Sergeant M.R. Williams
The 9th of May 2014 was designated as the inaugural National Day of Honour to commemorate the end of the Canadian commitment to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Regiments from across the country sent soldiers, sailors, airmen and women to the Nation’s capital. The 9-member contingent from our Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) was the largest group that was sent to Ottawa from across the Canadian Armed Forces. Attending this parade from LdSH(RC) were the following soldiers: Sergeant Matt Williams and Corporal Romeo Kabongo (A Sqn); Master Corporal Tom Hume and Corporal Nick Morin (Recce Sqn); Corporals Mike Partington and Derrick Popoff (B Sqn); Corporal Dave Young (HQ Sqn); and Corporal John Langlands (RHQ).
Warrant Officer Rob Likely and Master Corporal Kyle Chuback from the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School brought a Leopard 2A4M for the static display, and much to our surprise, the parade Regimental Sergeant-Major was Chief Warrant Officer William Crabb, our own former RSM, who had recently returned from the last rotation in Afghanistan on Op ATTENTION.
We landed in Ottawa on the 7th of May and after clearing-in to Carleton University Campus, the summer home of the Ceremonial Guard, I showed our group the finer parts of Ottawa heading to the Byward Market to enjoy the night. The next day saw us being on parade practice with the other 300 to 400 soldiers, sailors, and air personnel from across Canada.
On the day of the parade, we were bussed down to the Lebreton Flats outside of the National War Museum where the parade fell-in and we marched to Parliament Hill. It was a definite honour as none of us had experienced anything quite like this before. The streets were lined with people clapping and cheering, what I would equate to a welcome home parade reminiscent of WWII!
The Strathcona’s on parade were in the Guard comprised of soldiers from the West. This Guard was located right in front of the dais which was also right beside the members of the Soldier On marathon relay team that carried a baton from Kingston to Ottawa. This was a specially made baton with ribbons from all 3 deployments from 2001 to 2014 and contained the last flag flown in Kabul. The Govenor General and Chief of Defence Staff inspected the entire parade. Speeches from the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence were well articulated and reaffirmed that in spite of the number of our comrades who fell, the mission in Afghanistan was a success and without a doubt the longest conflict our country had participated in our 147 years of history.
The parade ended after a fly-past by the Royal Canadian Air Force of the aircraft that had participated in Afghanistan: Griffons, Chinooks, Hercules and a very low flying C-17 Globemaster. The chance to participate in a parade of this magnitude was priceless and an experience that none of us who attended will forget. We will remember the sacrifices of the ones that didn't come home, the ones that were injured, and the ones that struggle with the war every day they are home - We Will Remember Them.