File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS                                Canadian soldiers patrol an area in the Dand district of southern Afghanistan. Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, said the country is still trying to learn how best to care for those who were wounded — physically and emotionally — during the war in Afghanistan.

File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Canadian soldiers patrol an area in the Dand district of southern Afghanistan. Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, said the country is still trying to learn how best to care for those who were wounded — physically and emotionally — during the war in Afghanistan.

Canada marks fifth anniversary of end of Afghanistan mission

OTTAWA — When the Sept. 11 terror attacks hit the World Trade Centre towers in 2001, Anita Cenerini says her son, Thomas Welsh, knew right away he would likely be shipped off to war.

He had joined the Canadian Forces just one month prior, so his mother tried to reassure him.

“I was afraid for him and I said, ‘You don’t have to go. You just joined. You can back out,’” she recalled.

“He came up to me and he put his arms around me and he said, ‘Mom, they’re going to need me now more than ever.’”

Welsh was trained and deployed as part of Operation Athena in August 2003, where he served as a C9 gunner. Less than three months after he returned to Canada, he took his own life.

His death on May 8, 2004, was the first death by suicide of a Canadian soldier after serving in the Afghan war.

Cenerini was named the 2018 National Silver Cross Mother and was in Ottawa on Sunday for a special ceremony at the National War Memorial marking the fifth anniversary of the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

Her voice was quiet as she tried to talk about her son without breaking into tears. Her eyes reflected the heavy heart of a newly grieving mother, despite the decade and a half that have passed since her son died.

Cenerini fought for years to have Welsh’s death recognized as being caused by his military service.

On Sunday, the invisible wounds of war were openly acknowledged by government and military officials who shared solemn words of remembrance.

Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, said the country is still trying to learn how best to care for those who were wounded — physically and emotionally — during the war in Afghanistan.

“We cannot ever forget that warfare takes its toll and always will,” he said.

“This war took a physical toll on the dead and wounded and took a mental toll on many people left behind that may not appear wounded, but they are.”

Stephane Lauzon, parliamentary secretary to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, also acknowledged the toll the conflict continues to have for many.

A total of 158 Canadian Armed Forces and seven Canadian civilians were killed in the conflict and more than 40,000 Canadians in uniform served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

“They cannot and will not be forgotten, nor can the thousands who left with physical and psychological injuries. For those who returned home with injury and for those who continue to struggle with those injuries, we will continue to improve our support and services for you,” Lauzon said.

“Whether the injury be physical or mental, we will be there for you.”

Cenerini said she feels humbled by the sacrifices of so many families who lost loved ones and is grateful to have their lives honoured at the National War Memorial — a physical place where she says remembering them is profound.

Her son’s courage brings her strength, she said, even when it comes with deep sadness.

“That’s the most important story, that when Thomas could have said no, he didn’t. He said yes. And I think that’s all that really matters,” she said.

Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Just Posted

Shanna Lydiard complains that her mail hasn’t been delivered for over 10 weeks due to water main construction on her West Park block. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Residents of Red Deer street have no mail delivery for 10-plus weeks

Shanna Lydiard says she doesn’t trust the city’s promises

FILE - Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that Albertans could start booking second dose shots of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday night. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Public measures will be lifted: Alberta will enter Stage 3 on Canada Day

Alberta will enter Stage 3 of its Open for Summer Plan on… Continue reading

A massive round dance, involving hundreds of people at Bower Ponds, was a highlight of Canada Day celebrations in 2000. (Contributed photo).
Fireworks without a Canada Day celebration is planned for July 1 in Red Deer

Many residents aren’t in a festive mood, with recent Indigenous graves discovery

Students’ Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen says the government needs to be transparent about why RDC doesn’t have degrees yet. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Brittany Lausen earns RDC Outstanding Student Award

Student’s Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen has been named… Continue reading

Gabe Cuthand, Brandon McDonald, Dean Johnson and Dakota Dion drumming during a past Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at City Hall Park in Red Deer (Advocate file photo).
Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated online on Monday in Red Deer

National Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated in Red Deer on Monday… Continue reading

A supporter of presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi holds a sign during a rally in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Iran's clerical vetting committee has allowed just seven candidates for the Friday, June 18, ballot, nixing prominent reformists and key allies of President Hassan Rouhani. The presumed front-runner has become Ebrahim Raisi, the country's hard-line judiciary chief who is closely aligned with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iran votes in presidential poll tipped in hard-liner’s favor

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranians voted Friday in a presidential… Continue reading

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, left, and President Seiko Hashimoto attend the news conference after receiving a report from a group of infectious disease experts on Friday, June 18, 2021, in Tokyo. The experts including Shigeru Omi, head of a government coronavirus advisory panel, issued a report listing the risks of allowing the spectators and the measurements to prevent the event from triggering a coronavirus spread. (Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool Photo via AP)
Top medical adviser says ‘no fans’ safest for Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — The safest way to hold the Tokyo Olympics is… Continue reading

FILE - In this June 12, 2021, file photo, Rajkumar Haryani, 38, who painted his body to create awareness about vaccination against the coronavirus poses for photographs after getting a dose of Covishield vaccine in Ahmedabad, India. Starting June 21, 2021, every Indian adult can get a COVID-19 vaccine dose for free that was purchased by the federal government. The policy reversal announced last week ends a complex system of buying vaccines that worsened inequities in accessing vaccines. India is a key global supplier of vaccines and its missteps have left millions of people waiting unprotected. The policy change is likely to address inequality but questions remain and shortages will continue. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)
How India is changing vaccine plan amid shortages

NEW DELHI (AP) — Starting Monday, every adult in India will be… Continue reading

Chief of Defence staff General Jonathan Vance speaks during a news conference to , in Ottawa Tuesday August 30, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces says it is making progress in the fight against sexual misconduct in the ranks, but much more work needs to be done. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Freeze promotions until military commanders are screened for misconduct: Committee

OTTAWA — A parliamentary committee has called for a freeze on all… Continue reading

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Hussen says he is looking to municipalities to reshape local rules to more quickly build units through the government's national housing strategy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Cities should redo planning, permitting to align with housing strategy, minister says

OTTAWA — The federal minister in charge of affordable housing says he… Continue reading

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. On June 1, NACI had said AstraZeneca recipients "could" get Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna for their second shot if they wanted, but Thursday went further to say an mRNA vaccine was the "preferred" choice. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

When Gwenny Farrell booked her second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine… Continue reading

Brooklyn Nets' James Harden, right, is guarded by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Bucks bounce back to defeat Nets 104-89 and force Game 7

MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton scored 38 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 30 and… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) brings the puck up the ice against the New York Islanders during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinals, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. Tampa Bay won 2-1.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Point scores again, Lightning beat Islanders 2-1 in Game 3

Lightning 2 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads series 2-1) UNIONDALE, N.Y. —… Continue reading

Most Read