To welcome Canadian troops home from Afghanistan, a Red Deer woman has tied yellow ribbons around posts in her neighbourhood.
On March 12, Canada’s time in Afghanistan officially ended after 12 years of in the conflict-ridden country. The last of the troops returned to Canada on March 18.
Lydia Kelston, 74, said she did not want the historic moment go unnoticed in Red Deer.
She says the ribbons symbolize recognition and appreciation of their service.
“A lot of them fought and died,” said Kelston. “They did it for a good reason. They have helped so much in the countries that they fought in. We are lucky to have them back.”
Kelston was moved to tears after watching a news program about two teenagers whose father died in Afghanistan just days before he was set to return home. They spoke about the times they wished their father was there with them.
Kelston said the siblings were consoling one another. She said it was very moving.
“I thought ‘Oh wow,’ ” she said. “Here I am sitting where it’s warm and comfortable. I am thankful for life and I just thought it might be a nice gesture (to put up the ribbons).”
Kelston made 41 ribbons out of a plastic yellow table cloth. After tying the ribbons around the posts in Owens Close, Kelston dropped off the ribbons at several pubs because she thought some of the troops will want to have a drink in a safe spot. A friend will deliver some at the former Penhold military base. She has enlisted the help of her neighbour.
Kelston’s uncles and great uncles served in the First World War, Second World War and Korean War. She has lived in Red Deer since 1980.
Her late husband, Adam, was a police officer and was in the navy reserve as a young man.
Kelston has already seen firsthand the effects of her ribbons. She was at a local pub explaining the significance of the ribbons to a young woman when a man who had served in the Canadian navy overheard the conversation. Kelston said he got emotional and thanked her for her gesture.
“I don’t know how old he was but I thought at 74 I could get away with hugging him,” said Kelston. “He needed some comfort so I thanked him profusely.”
The federal government has proclaimed May 9 as a national day to honour those who served in Afghanistan and remember those who died.
Between 2002 and 2011 in Afghanistan, a total of 158 Canadian Forces personnel were killed in action, 635 soldiers were wounded in action and 1,412 received non-battle injuries.