Afghanistan veterans rally to have dates added to front of Halifax cenotaph

Sunday marked the fifth year anniversary of the end of Canada’ combat mission in Afghanistan. But one Nova Scotia veteran is still waging a battle to have the dates of the Afghanistan campaign added to the cenotaph in Halifax’s Grand Parade Square.

For the past two years, army veteran Bob Thompson has considered it his mission, to right what he sees as a wrong against Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

“Our will is to properly get the dates put on the front of the cenotaph,” explains Thompson, a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer. "All I want to do is get the Afghan war dates below the First, Second and Korean Wars."

Right now those dates are etched on the back of the monument, towards the bottom.

But to Thompson, that doesn’t honour the 40,000 Canadian veterans that served in Afghanistan, or the 158 who died there.

“If you’re a family member of the fallen, not being able to see those dates is a travesty,” says Thompson.

In 2018, Halifax city staff ran a report looking into the issue, and recommended against adding any more dates to the cenotaph, with the reasoning that adding dates to the front of the cenotaph would be ‘visually distracting’.

City council agreed with the staff report, but Thompson and some of the other veterans who gathered on Sunday say they aren’t accepting the city’s decision.

“We lost 158 guys over there,” says Scott Timpa, a retired corporal who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti over his 13 years of service. “Some those people were my friends, and just to have it on the back?”.

Jim Davis is the father of Corporal Paul Davis, who became the ninth Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan when his armoured vehicle flipped over near Kandahar in 2006.

“Whenever I pass by a cenotaph, I can’t help but think about my boy, and to not acknowledge the date of the Afghanistan conflict on the front, that hurts me,” said Jim Davis from his home in Bridgewater, N.S. “And sadly, we continue to lose veterans from Afghanistan.”

Thompson says that’s why he needs to keep pushing to have the Afghanistan dates added to the cenotaph.

He invited members of city council to Sunday’s rally, but none came. But the veterans who did, added their names to the 2000 signatures on Thompson’s petition, which he plans to present to City Hall soon.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.