Every day, remember.
But during the first 11 days of November, Leona Stock can take those memories to a special place for her son Stephan. His name is written on a white cross adorned with his image, a Canadian flag and a poppy in Calgary’s field of crosses.
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It was on a high school career day that Stephan first learned about a possible future with the Canadian Armed Forces and shortly thereafter trained to become a combat engineer.
“I was hooked,” Leona recounted.
Stephan said goodbye to his mother, father and brother in February 2008 when he was sent to Afghanistan. He was 24 years old.
Six months later, he was killed in the line of duty.
“He was killed on August 20, 2008,” Leona explained as tears welled up in her eyes. “They hit an IED (improvised explosive device). Three of them failed.
“Sometimes it’s okay, I can talk about Stephan. But other times it’s very … it’s emotional and I don’t think that will ever go away. It’s something that stays with you. “
Leona and her husband were able to go to Afghanistan for Remembrance Day in 2009.
They found comfort in the same soil that their child once had, and they also met and connected with other parents who shared their unthinkable fate.
“It helped my husband and me a lot,” Leona said.
“It’s amazing what you can do: meet and talk to people who are going through the same (things) as you.”
It’s a pain that will never go away, but emotions are even starker this year with what has unfolded in Afghanistan when the Taliban have taken control of the country again.
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Military Family Resource Centers (MFRC) across the country they offer a range of services and resources for all families of veterans, including those of the fallen.
“One thing we make sure of is that we are always there for them,” he said. Calgary MFRC CEO Warren Hartwell.
“While this week is particularly focused on memory, we are there 365 days a year, because that ultimate sacrifice never goes away. It is there every day of the year and we are also there every day of the year “.
Hartwell has seen the impact the situation in Afghanistan has had on Alberta families firsthand and his team has not only provided ongoing support, but also picked up the phone to check in.
“We’ll use warm calls, just to reach out to families and ask that simple question, ‘Hey, how are you? Is there something we can support you with? ‘”
And those phone calls have made a big difference in recent months, according to Hartwell. MFRC Calgary COO Cassie Reeves said there have been two main emotions.
“For some people it has been evasion. When they have seen the news, they turn off the television and avoid the situation, ”Reeves said.
“For the other members of the family, I think they have just consoled themselves with what it was: the purpose for which they sent their sons and daughters, husbands and wives to Afghanistan. There was a reason for it. “
“There are pieces that families have no control over,” Hartwell said. “But one thing we have noticed about our family and the feedback they received is how proud they are. How proud they are to represent Canada as a country and the impact their sons and daughters had in Afghanistan. “
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“We have had many members who have reached out, expressing their desire to have to talk to other people who have also been in the same situation as them,” Reeves said.
In fact, MFRC held a meeting in Lethbridge for veterans to share their feelings, point out resources, and create that sense of community.
“People needed to connect with other people who understand the situation they have been in,” Reeves said.
That is something that Leona knows very well. He has reached out to the MFRC and connected with families.
While she had no way of knowing that the goodbye hug in 2008 would be the last time she would hug her son, she takes immense pride in knowing that he followed her passion and made a difference.
“It’s hard to watch your friends get married and have children,” Leona said.
While he was in the Field of Crosses, he said that there was something in which he would do his mission.
“We just want to make sure they don’t forget it, and that means a lot to our family.”
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