TYENDINAGA – The Soldier On Afghanistan Relay team began their walk, run, and wheel from the Canadian Armed Forces Base in Trenton and are set to continue on to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa with a brief stopover in Tyendinaga. The relay began May 4th and they are expected in Ottawa on the National Day of Honour, May 9th, to give the baton to the Prime Minister of Canada.
The Relay team consists of sixteen military, two RCMP officers and one civilian government employee who all acquired a visible or non-visible illness or injury in Afghanistan. The Relay team will be carrying a specially made baton that holds the last Canadian Flag to fly at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Relay team was escorted onto Mohawk Territory at approximately 1:30 pm and stopped at the Community Building where they were greeted by Chief R. Donald Maracle. Chief Maracle had this to say as he addressed the Relay Team, “Our people have a very proud and continuing history. There has never been a time that the crown hasn’t needed our help, or that our People didn’t answer the call to arms… You remembered your country and may your country always remember you.”
Major Jay Feyko, Lead Officer, was presented the Inukshuk, the Inukshuk was chosen because “it has significant meaning of helping others navigate survive the harsh desolate arctic thus it is symbolic of the journey to recovery and it reminds us of our responsibility to invest in our efforts.”
There were four members of Tyendinaga to serve in Afghanistan, two were military and two were civilians. Tyendinaga’s four members in Afghanistan were Carol Levecque who went with the 4th and 7th Squad that left after 9/11, and she returned in May of 2002. She retired as a Sergeant thereafter. Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht was killed in the Panjwayi district on June 26th, 2010 from an improvised explosive device (IED). The two civilians are Cory Maracle and Patrick Ward, who according to Bev Hill-LaRue, were in transportation and communications/IT, respectively.
After O Canada finished playing Nathan Brinklow, Tyendinaga community member, closed the gathering. It wasn’t long after the closing when Shawn Brant, Tyendinaga member, stood up to address those in attendance. He blasted the RCMP for coming into Mohawk territory in light of a report that came out stating that the RCMP were “implicated…in the abduction, rape, assault, and sexual assault of the women in our communities”. He went on to recount the number of time the Canadian government deployed its police and armed forces onto our people. Brant added “it’s only by the grace of god and the respect that we have that we allow this to go through without a greater disruption than what you are seeing right now.” He ended his impromptu speech with, “This is BS!”
The Soldier On Relay team wants to thank Canadians for all of their support and to raise awareness regarding programs to help people with illnesses or injuries as a result of serving in Afghanistan. If you have any questions or would like to donate to this cause you can get more information at www.soldieron.ca