Lieut. Michael Ragotte was one of the lucky ones.
A solider with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, Ragotte returned safe and sound from Afghanistan, none the worse for wear.
Pte. Josh Klukie, Cpl. Anthony Boneca and Pte. Robert Costall weren’t as lucky. Within a six-month span in 2006, all three soldiers were killed serving their country in the rugged Asian countryside.
Ragotte, speaking Friday at a local ceremony celebrating the country’s hastily called National Day of Hounour, said the three soldiers and their sacrifices should never be forgotten.
“It’s almost too much to fathom what they gave the mission in Afghanistan,” Ragotte said to a crowd of about 150 that gathered at the Waverly Park memorial commemorating the fallen three.
Ragotte said the soldiers may have died, but they didn’t die in vain. Every day he served overseas, he saw the difference Canadians had made in a country trying to crawl out from under the oppressive yolk of the Taliban.
Seeing young girls on their way to school was a daily reminder of why they were there in the first place.
“That never would have happened before 2002,” he said, a smattering of applause starting in the crowd. “The soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice put those children in school. And their children will only benefit from that.
“They did not die in vain. They died for a better world.”
Robin Rickards served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and called it a job that had to be done, a job he felt he had to lend a hand.
That’s precisely why Klukie, Boneca and Costall heeded the call of duty, he said.
“These three young gentlemen did the same thing,” Rickards said. “They wanted to serve their country and try to make a better world for us all.
Rickards asked the crowd to remember the little things the three soldiers can never do again – hugging a child or flashing a smile at friends.
“Please, always remember the sacrifices they’ve made for us and for our fellow citizens in this world.”
The hour-long ceremony began with a traditional colour party march, and included recollections of the war from several veterans before a two-minute silence to honour Klukie, Costall and Boneca.
It concluded with the laying of poppies on a wreath placed in front of the memorial.
For Petty Officer Doneta Rasmussen, the ceremony hit close to home. Rasmussen knew all three soldiers and helped recruit them and guide them through the military recruitment process.
It was an emotional afternoon, she said, recalling each soldier.
Boneca has a special place in her heart, she said.
“He was so excited to become a full-fledged member of that regiment. Josh had some great plans. I remember him coming in and saying I’m going to finish my diploma, I’m going to do some real world experience in the army and then I’m going to come back and serve in a capacity as a medical technician,” Rasmussen said.
“All of them I’m sure had some really great futures ahead of them. Fate gave them another direction.”
It’s something she never wants to forget, which is why Rasmussen keeps a picture of each soldier in her office, a personal tribute to the three young men.
“I don’t need a national day. I remember them every day.”
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