Joseph “Larry” Gollner stands with the 18,000-pound granite memorial at Bay Street Armoury when it arrived in Victoria from Quebec earlier this year. The monument will be installed at the corner of Courtney and Quadra streets and unveiled at a dedication ceremony this Saturday (Sept. 30) starting at 1:15 p.m. Photo courtesy John Azar

Victoria site of B.C.’s first Afghanistan memorial to Canadian soldiers

Public unveiling and dedication ceremony set for Saturday afternoon

A procession of local, provincial, national and international dignitaries, as well as current and former military members and their families, will gather at a Victoria park on Saturday (Sept. 30) for a ceremony honouring Canadians who served in Afghanistan.

The event will culminate in the unveiling of a six-by-four-foot, 18,000-pound granite monument inscribed with the names of the 158 Canadian Forces members, four public servants and one journalist who died in the Afghanistan war from 2001 to 2014.

The monument is the first in B.C. to commemorate those who served in the war, Canada’s longest military campaign. The memorial and ceremony are the result of a five-year project by the Greater Victoria Afghanistan Memorial Project Society, who hope the public will come out to honour those who served.

President of the society Joseph “Larry” Gollner, a retired soldier, hopes his efforts give something back to the servicemen and women and their families.

“It’s a good thing to do to recognize people that made [this] supreme sacrifice,” he said. “We had 2,000 wounded, some physically, others mentally, and they’re still recovering … some unfortunately will never recover.”

RELATED: Organizers offer sneak peek of memorial honouring Afghanistan vets

Society board member John Azar, who describes himself as an ardent amateur military historian, said the process has been hard work, but now that the memorial is here, he’s satisfied to have done something meaningful.

“It’s all about remembering and honouring and learning from the experiences of those who served,” he said. “When people go into conflict areas, it’s hard for the general public to understand what soldiers and civilians are there working for. It’s important for us to recognize that …”

RELATED: Deciding next step in Afghanistan comes with grim backdrop

The memorial is being unveiled at the corner of Quadra and Courtney Streets next to the play park erected on the former tent city site. The unveiling and dedication ceremony begins at 1:15 p.m. Military personnel and Memorial Cross families will attend as well as Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, Premier John Horgan, Afghanistan Ambassador Shinkai Karokhail, M.P. for Pitt-Meadows Dan Ruimy and Victoria City Coun. Chris Coleman.

The 5th B.C. Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery band and the Christ Church Cathedral school choir will be performing. For more information and to read the itinerary visit vicafghanistanmemorial.ca.

lauren.boothby@vicnews.com

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