“Afghanistan – A Soldiers Story” is to be a compilation of the very human stories and photographs of Canadian soldiers, sailors and air men and women who deployed with the Canadian Afghanistan Combat Mission between 2002 and 2014. The aim is to create a commemorative album that will allow those who served Canada in Afghanistan an opportunity to share their experiences with the Canadian public. Net proceeds from book sales will go to the Boomers Legacy Foundation, the Military Family Resources Centre, the Military Families Fund, and the Soldier On Fund.
The stories and images for “Afghanistan – A Soldiers Story” will be arranged in a chronology that follows our engagement in Afghanistan. As such it will be a welcome and positive legacy for the CF members who served, for the families and friends of the fallen, for schools, and for the Canadian public.
The book will be a large, hard cover publication, organized in chapters by year and operation, to share with Canadians the stories, reflections and images produced by CF members and CF agencies such as Army News and Combat Camera. Contributions from journalists who embedded with the mission will also be incorporated.
The CDS, Gen Walter Natynczyk, has written the CF introduction and Dr. Jack Granastein will be writing a second introduction. MGen Jonathan Vance will write an afterward. There will be an additional afterward section of the book where key sponsors and major contributors in kind will be credited, with an opportunity for each to include a few paragraphs on why they chose to support the project and what the efforts of our soldiers mean to them.
Each chapter will be introduced by a summary of the relevant historical events that shaped and inspired the subsequent soldier’s stories and images. LCol Ian Hope, Commander Task Fore Orion and military historian, has agreed to author the historical summaries.
Most of the material for the proposed book already exists so the bulk of the initiative would involve gathering, sorting and organizing the best of the available content. This will be accomplished through an early November internal (to the CF) media campaign to introduce the project. There will be a public launch of this, the project web site http://www.afghanistanacanadianstory.ca at the Edmonton Garrison Officers Mess at 10:00 a.m. November 14, 2011. The web is interactive, allowing CF members, retired and serving, as well as civilians and media that deployed, to upload content according to carefully explained guidelines and protocols. Families of the Fallen are also invited to submit.
Current projected costs for a run of 5000 books is approximately $50,000 but this figure does not include possible travel and accommodation costs related to a two part media campaign. There is also the possibility that the publisher will underwrite prodution of the book. Web design advice and server support is being donated by Racknine Inc. The first media campaign, to commence in mid November 2011, will be to launch the web site and solicit CF stories and photographs from serving and retired CF members, and DND employees who served in Afghanistan as well as Canadian Media who embedded with our troops. The second media campaign, to commence early November 2012, will be to launch the finished book on 11 November 2014. In the event that submissions exceed the space available in the book, there will also be an accompanying DVD of images, stories, and video clips. There is also discussion underway with a documentary film company to compile video submissions in a documentary that captures the essence of the human experience of the Canadian Afghan Combat Mission.
Historically, the Canadian public has had limited awareness of or interest in the Canadian military unless or until there is a domestic or international crisis that calls for the involvement of our soldiers, sailors and air men and women. This has resulted in a corresponding ebb and flow of government support for the military that has made it difficult, between crisis and conflicts, to maintain a credible, flexible, combat capable, rapid response, deployable military in accordance with Department of National Defence policy and mission statements.
The CF is at the most robust and capable it has been for decades and while it is withdrawing the combat mission from Afghanistan this year, overall Canadian support for the CF remains high. It is important to capitalize on current strong public support and provide Canadians with what would be a popular legacy product to help them remember the accomplishments of their military in Afghanistan. It is particularly important to do so in the face of the pending change in operational tempo to ensure that the CF does not fade from view and drift to the background of the Canadian community landscape once again, to resurface every November 11 and for ceremonial events.
The publication of a legacy album like “Afghanistan; A Soldier’s Story” will do more than allow our CF members to share their boots on the ground experiences serving Canada in Afghanistan. It will also provide Canadians with new insights and a better understanding of the culture that is unique to the Canadian military. The book is expected to have wide appeal, from the friends and families of our CF members, to schools, communities and corporations, as well as Canadian Consuls around the world and Foreign Consuls here in Canada.
The Edmonton Garrison Military Family Resource Centre has agreed to administer a fund for the project and will ensure that net proceeds from “Afghanistan: A Soldiers Story” are distributed to the Boomers Legacy Foundation, the Military Families Fund, and the Soldier On Fun. Copies of the book will also be made available, as gifts, to the families of the fallen.
All participants in the project, except the publisher, are volunteers.
The Afghanistan mission has been very defining for Canada and for the CF. In many ways it has represented a coming of age for our military. We are faced with a much changed twenty first century climate of international conflict. A book on the achievements of the Canadian Afghanistan Combat Mission would help us redefine what it really means to be a “Peacekeeper” in this new and highly dynamic global community.
“Afghanistan – A Soldiers Story”will be well received as more than a “coffee table book” – It will be a valuable chronicling of the successes and very human stories of our soldiers, sailors and air men and women in Afghanistan. As such it also stands as both a well deserved tribute to their efforts and an opportunity to share with the Canadian public a real glimpse into what the CF and its supporters have accomplished in that mission. This will be increasingly important as the Afghan combat mission, once concluded, drifts into the back corners of collective Canadian memory.