Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Emotional, with good reason

Tamas Virag of the Edmonton Sun described a flag ceremony commemorating PPCLI soldiers killed in the fratricide incident in 2002 as "emotional."

After an emotional flag ceremony in Laval, Que., the commander of Edmonton-based 3 PPCLI is on his way home with a cherished piece of military history.

A company flag - bearing the signatures of most soldiers stationed in Afghanistan in 2002 when four Canadians died in an American 'friendly fire' bombing - was handed over to Lt.-Col. Peter Dawe yesterday at the Canadian Space Agency's headquarters.

The flag was originally presented seven years ago to Vancouver-based graphic artist Joseph Green, after he collected thousands of e-mails and pictures following the deadly explosion and sent them to soldiers overseas.

"He took it upon himself to put together a book of condolences from across the country ... it's a very moving gesture," Dawe said. "I recall being overseas myself as operations officer and hearing news of this and it was all rather heartwarming, pretty good for morale, given the knock we've taken."

However, rather than hanging the flag in his living room, Green asked the Canadian Space Agency to take it into space, which they did in late 2006.

"It's a remarkable gesture. It's almost overwhelming when you consider the time and the effort that he put into this," Dawe, an 18-year army veteran, said.

Emotional? I'd say. LCol Dawe is not only CO of 3PPCLI, a regiment that has lost nearly a third of all Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, he's also the older brother of Capt Matt Dawe, who was killed over a year ago in Kandahar. Not only that, but he served in Afghanistan in 2002 (see the Bronze Star on his row of medals?), when the men commemorated by the flag were killed.


While in Laval, Dawe and several other officers, visited Laval Liberty high school.

Students and teachers at the school decided to strengthen ties with the battalion after one of their graduates, Sgt. Christos Karigiannis, a 3 PPCLI soldier, was killed in action in Afghanistan nearly two years ago.

Students at the school learn about 3 PPCLI as part of a social studies course, Dawe said, and have sent soldiers letters. They are now planning to have regular correspondence with those stationed overseas.

"(We) acknowledge this act of citizenship these young people have taken upon themselves," Dawe said of the visit to the school.

"We're not there to recruit and we're certainly not there to glorify war - it's the last thing we want to do - but we love the idea of young people being engaged and being informed. That, to me, is the essence of good citizenship."

Sergeant Karigiannis was one of Matt Dawe's soldiers.

Family ties are strong: both the regimental family and the blood relations. No wonder the reporter sensed emotion.


Blogger The Super Arrow said...

My name is Joseph Green and I am the artist who was honoured with being presented that flag. Here is the speech that I read.

Good morning.
First I would like to thank Dr. MacLean and the entire Canadian Space Agency for extending an invitation to receive this flag. In 2002 I set up a website to collect the condolences of average Canadians and people world wide for the first four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. I am just an average Joe who happened to live in Edmonton on a main road which soldiers from Edmonton Garrison used.

When we lost the first soldiers, I could sense a vacuum which has now spread across Canada with the loss of our latest soldiers and in that, I felt that I had to do something constructive because losing any member of our beloved military for me feels like a loss of a brother or sister and it compelled me to do something. So the next day I put up hundreds of yellow ribbons on 97 st in Edmonton, and in fact I was met with the first widow and her family of this conflict. Marley Leger and the family of Sgt. Marc Leger came out to thank me. There were simply no words to explain that profound moment, except that she is a woman of class and grace as is all the families I have had the honour to circulate with on this epic journey, especially the Van Sloten family, relatives of Cpl Ainsworth Dyer.

By this point I had the web site well underway and within the first week, I received nearly 60 000 hits and was contacted by my now life long friend Maj Mark Campbell, the DCO of 3 PPCLI Battle Group serving over there with a message of thanks. As an artist, it marked the first time my work was shown in a war zone and needless to say I was floored. After insisting on asking what it was they could do to thank me, I requested an autographed flag of their regiment as I am an avid flag collector. Thinking nothing of it, Maj Campbell did all the leg work to facilitate that and I simply could not believe it when he sent a group photo of the Battle Group posing for a picture. That moment, seeing that picture restored my faith in humanity and made me realize the true caliber of people who serve Canada and to Maj Mark Campbell, I thank you and your family along with the family of Col Wayne Eyre for your hospitality.

After reading a story on about how a US Marine Corps flag was taken on the Space Shuttle as a way to inspire the entire US Armed Forces, I contacted the Canadian Space Agency, provided them with the back story along with some pictures and Dr. MacLean warmly accepted my offer of the flag to take it into orbit as a way to inspire the Canadian Forces. When I read the email informing me of their decision, I was stunned and truly inspired by the sheer generosity of Dr. MacLean and the entire Canadian Space Agency, for they matched the same degree of high order professionalism and grace I have experienced in dealing with the Canadian Forces.

Today I present the last copy of a book I invested two and a half years into in order to sell and raise funds to memorialize all soldiers lost while serving in Afghanistan. The proceeds I was able to raise were donated to an organization which promotes women's rights and literacy in the middle east based on the recommendations of Col Pat Stogran, the CO of the first Battle Group and now the Ombudsman at Veteran Affairs. At the funds presentation which took place at my alma matter, Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, the Patricia's arranged to have a piper from the Seaforth Highlanders come out and participate to help close that chapter.

What I give to you now, is one of only 18 books in existance. I gave the majority of these books away to members of the families who lost loved ones and the first 8 injured soldiers as my gesture of thanks for their sacrifices for Canada. Since the time I have been presented with this flag, over 100 more Canadian soldiers have died while serving in Afghanistan and each have had the same impact on me as the first. There is no easy way to accept such a tragic loss, especially with the most recent ones just a few days ago.

Unfortunately the book destined for you is in the mail as we speak so this is my personal copy I am presenting which you can hold on to until we are able to track yours down.

The loss of any precious members of any service is hard and with that, I along with all Canadians would like to extend our deepest collective condolences to the Space Families on the loss of Columbia only a few short years ago. The world stood still that day and their bravery and courage to this day serve to inspire millions around the world.

To Dr. MacLean, I would really like to specifically point something out. By virtue of taking that flag into orbit, and elevating that Canadian Forces flag of the Third Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, you took our forces somewhere they have never been before. I know that I received this flag initially for the first four we lost but I would ask that you, the Canadian Forces as a whole and the Canadian families who are baring the brunt of this come to view this as our flag. What you did sir, you took the flag of our fallen soldiers...all of them, you sir, you carried that flag which escorted the souls of our fallen soldiers home to the heavens to make sure they made it home safe and I would just like to specifically high light that because it is in that context, which I graciously accept this flag back from you.

This flag, as I have promised will end up back here in the near future, framed up for a permanent display so that anyone in Canada may visit it as it has become a sacred piece of Canadian military history.

I would like to close by saying thank you again to Dr. MacLean for this effort in bringing this to a proper and graceful conclusion for all members of the PPCLI and those who serve in the Canadian Forces. I would especially like to express my deepest thanks to the Regiment for putting up with my stubborn persistence.

And finally, I would like to thank the soldiers who defend Canada and the families which sacrifice for me and for this nation. Your courage and sacrifice serve to inspire me and when you have those moments of hardship and loss, I invite you to go outside on those hard nights and look up towards the heavens knowing that for 11 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes and 35 seconds, the entire earth flew under the flag of the Canadian Forces and of the Patricia's under their watch and our nation is safe because of your collective sacrifices. Thank you and may God continue to bless Canada.

(I then presented Dr. MacLean with a painting entitled "The Stuff of Patricia's" and also with a brush and a tube of paint and gave him the honour of painting the last brush stroke. It was the highlight of this journey for me personally as an artist to stand beside and paint with an astronaut. He actually flew and displayed the flag in orbit and when I saw that I was honoured and floored. I also presented him with the last book of condolences of a limited edition print run which I set up and sold in order to raise funds but I mis-spoke as to the number of books. I actually gave him set 18. It has been and always will be my honour to have been able to help facilitate this epic journey of bringing the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry to the stars. For a time...the entire earth flew under the flag of the Patricia's...and now that flag is now located on a military base under armed guards....hahaha.... :)...just the way it should be.)

May God continue to bless our forces.

Joseph Green

7:46 a.m., March 29, 2009  

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