How many of us took notice of the signage that advertised May 9 as a National Day of Honour (Afghan Mission)? By Order in the Council P.C. 20014-281 of March 17, 2014, the Governor in Council ordered the proclamation to honour those who served in Afghanistan as well as the families.
Canadians home and abroad served Canada by participating in the Afghan mission from 2001 to 2014. March 31, 2014 marks the end of the Canadian military mission to Afghanistan. Master Corporal James Hayward Arnal was the 88th soldier of the 158 Canadian Forces personnel killed; one diplomat and a number of civilians were also lost.
Norwood St. Boniface Legion #43 hosted a recognition day for Master Corporal James Hayward Arnal, Canadian soldier killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan, as one of a number of events across the country leading up to the National Day of Honour. Arnal used to spend time with friends and family at Legion #43 where he signed up for service. A permanent display of the soldier’s personal military artifacts donated by the family in now officially open here.
A glass display case in the Legion’s great hall contains a restricted issue, personal military fatigues. The uniform was part of Arnal’s sealed personal effects that were returned to the family after his death. Tour crests and note book are also on display.
The Arnal display will become part of the Legion House Museum collection. The Museum depicts the military history of Manitoba. Artifacts are on display from the earliest conflicts between the French and English. The Militia of Manitoba and its involvement in the First World War is explored. Exhibits on the Second World War, Korean, the Cold War, Peace-keeping, NATO and Afghanistan highlight Manitobans and the units from the province.
During the Legion’s National Day of Honour ceremonies, Mr. Bruce Tascona the master of ceremonies talked of the pride and privilege one feels at receiving the gift from the Arnal family. He juxtaposed the joy with the sadness from the circumstances that makes such a gift possible.
The emotionally touching portion of the ceremony was an oration given by Mr. Ray Arnal, the father of the fallen soldier.
Firstly I’d like to thank Mr. Tascona and the Norwood Legion for inviting me to speak today and also thank them for the permanent display they have set up, right here in the legion, in memory of my son James. James joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2004 and after completing basic infantry training was stationed with the Second Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light infantry in Shilo.
In July of 2008, Jim, now a corporal was midway through his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed while on foot patrol by an improvised explosive device. He was 25 years old and the 88th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Jim loved adventure, nature and being in the great outdoors. He was a bit of an adrenaline junkie and loved challenging himself physically and mentally. On some weekends he and a friend would run/jog the Mantario trail in the day, rather than the recommended three days to complete the trail. Just to challenge themselves.
Jim also loved being a soldier, although he wasn’t too keen on the command structure. His independence and extreme self-confidence sometimes clashed with the military way of telling you what, when and how to do things, which of course resulted in his having to do extra duties. However being a soldier afforded him the adventure he sought as well as the opportunity to see parts of the world most of us have only heard, read and dreamt about.
In his short life, Jim managed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, go on an African safari, surf Australia, bungee jump, do white water rafting, skydive, swim with the sharks, do a triathlon, just to name a few. He was always looking forward to his next big adventure and he planned to visit Egypt after his tour of duty was done. Although Jim wasn’t able to make the trip to Egypt, his brother, Andrew did it for him.
Jim made friends wherever he went throughout his life’s journeys. His warmth, sincerity and sense of humor were hard to resist.
A friend once told me, “Everyone dies, but not everybody really lives.” Jim really lived and taught me many things, but two most important are:
One: is that you should live and love life to the fullest…. and two: is that tomorrow is promised to no one.
When Jimmy’s body was returned to Canada and transported from Trenton to Toronto, we were all deeply touched by the outpouring, support and tribute of the thousands of people that lined the highway and overpasses along the “Highway of Heroes.” It was truly an emotional and heartwarming experience that I, for one will never forget.
During the summer of 2008, Andrew took some of Jimmy’s ashes and spread them along the Mantario trail. Jim’s remaining ashes were laid to rest on November 11th 2008, at the Glen Lawn Cemetery next to the grave site of another soldier, Keith Ian Morley. Corporal Morley was also from Winnipeg and served with the PPCLI. He was killed in Afghanistan on September 18th 2006 at the age of 30.
Today has been declared the “National Day of Honour” to thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for their sacrifices, service and dedication.
I would also like to thank the families of these men and women who have to look after the home front, often by themselves, while their loved ones are sent off to some foreign and distant land.
In closing, I like to ask everyone to please rise, raise a glass and have a toast to my son James, and to all the men and women of the Armed Forces, present and past, living and dead, as well as to their families….
Assistance for event was provided by the Honourable Shelly Glover, member of Parliament for Saint Boniface. Shelly Glover’s staff were in attendance at the event while the Minster responsible for Canadian Heritage and Official Languages was attending the National Day of Honour in Ottawa.
All photos by Sean Conway