BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Lacombe born-and-raised veteran Bryce Talsma took time last week to speak at the Royal Canadian Legion #79 – the local Legion branch – in an effort to bring some meaning to residents about the Afghanistan Memorial Project.
The Afghanistan Memorial Project is an ongoing effort to create a memorial in the new Field of Honour as part of the Lacombe cemetery expansion.
The memorial’s centrepiece feature is a light-armoured vehicle, or LAV III, which carries a special significance for Canadian soldiers.
The LAV III will be placed near walkways, benches and plaques that people can enjoy as they commemorate the services and lives laid down by Canadian soldiers. In order to bring this LAV here, stickers with the saying, ‘Remembrance Day is Every Day’ are being sold for $5 to cover transportation costs.
Talsma spoke about his experiences in Afghanistan, touching on just why this memorial is so important to him.
He said it’s an honour to see this in his hometown, and that he hopes the community understands the significance of this memorial project.
“The LAV is a powerful symbol for those who were in Afghanistan. I’m sure that people here will see the LAV in pictures or videos that came back, and maybe see them as destructive. For the soldiers, they were a piece of Canada. They were our home. It’s where we had our music, our lunches – it’s where we felt safe. It’s also a symbol of strength,” Talsma said.
“I think that for an Afghanistan Memorial, it’s incredibly appropriate.”
Talsma explained that during his time in Afghanistan, the LAVs were constantly a reminder of home. He said that he feels some people may view it as a symbol of war or violence, but this is important, too.
“The fact is, it was violent and it was war. The LAV is a symbol of strength and security, but also reminds us of the very real difficulties of war,” he said.
Talsma is originally from Lacombe, born and raised, brought up through local schools. In 2006, he joined the Canadian Forces as a Direct Entry Officer.
In 2008, he completed training as an Infantry Officer and was assigned to the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Nearing the end of 2009, Talsma commanded a mechanized infantry platoon in Southern Afghanistan.
He explained that as a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, he is incredibly proud to see this monument being brought to the City.
“The LAV might not be a symbol that people who are outside of the situation would think of, but if you’ve been caught up in the middle of this as a soldier, the LAV is a symbol of hope,” Talsma said.
He remembered a specific incident where several American allies were under fire. He said his team heard shots, and immediately knew something was wrong.
They mounted up into the LAV III, arrived at the scene, and dismounted.
He said there were four of the vehicles and the sight alone was enough to have the attackers make themselves scarce, allowing the American soldiers to walk away unharmed – he said this was the true hope and strength represented by the LAVs.
“I’ve talked with friends who have fought – my brothers – and they are all excited that a program exists to get these LAVs up. For all of the soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, I think this is going to be amazing,” he said.
In having this Afghanistan Memorial located within the City, it will stand as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by men and women who stood up against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Talsma explained that the Canadian soldiers were there, first and foremost, to protect the citizens caught in the middle of a war they didn’t want.
“In these villages, time hasn’t moved in years. It’s medieval almost. There is no electricity, no water – everything is simple. Most of these people just want to live their lives,” Talsma said.
“They have the Taliban coming through, threatening families on one side, and the coalition of western armies moving forward and looking for support to find the Taliban. These people were caught in the middle. It was very clear that our mission was to protect these people and find a safe way to deal with those greater problems. It was very challenging.”
He said it is incredibly important for civilians to recognize Canadian military contributions to not only the Afghanistan project, but to conflicts through the ages.
“I want people to feel a sense of pride, just by living in the country we’re living in, and to be represented by the army that we have,” he added. “I think it’s truly amazing how powerful we are as a force of good in the world. Canadians should be proud of that.”
Part of the way he encouraged Canadians to take ownership of the country’s involvement in conflicts is simply to remember – this is why the LAV III sticker designs are so important to him.
“I want people to take a moment, think about why we were there, what we did, and focus on how we can remember that so we know better what to do if there is a next time,” he said plainly.
“I have three young children, and they’re never going to know the moment of watching 9/11 happen, and watching the towers fall. Today, it feels like this is everywhere, but then, we thought the sky was falling,” Talsma added.
“We have to remember that Canadians stood up with courage and conviction to go shoulder to shoulder with our allies – that is worth remembering.”
The LAV III monument stickers can be found in various locations around the City, and all proceeds go directly to covering the cost of bringing the LAV III vehicle to Lacombe.