Keynote speaker discusses Notes from Afghanistan project
The Barrhaven Legion hosted a special dinner to honour veterans of the Afghanistan War and their families on Saturday, Aug. 27.
A dozen veterans were presented with commemorative ball caps and certificates recognizing their service. The Legion branch was one of dozens across the country that held a special appreciation night for veterans and their families in August.
Sgt. Renay Groves, of the 21 Electronic Warfare Reg. and a veteran of the Afghanistan War, delivered the keynote speech at the Afghan Veterans Appreciation Dinner, and presented a book to the Legion, modelled after Notes from Home, a scrapbook she created in 2007 that contains the signatures of more than 80,000 Canadians, and now sits in the Canadian War Museum.
Notes from Home is a collection of well-wishes and thank yous from Canadians for the troops who were serving in Afghanistan.
NOTES FROM HOME
Groves first started collecting signatures at her local grocery store in Barrhaven in 2007.
One day, Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre stopped by her table at the grocery store and talked to her about the project.
This was a book the prime minister should sign, he told Groves.
A meeting was arranged, and on Dec. 5, 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper added his signature to Notes from Home.
“It just exploded after that,” said Groves.
The book soon fell under the radar of Gen. Rick Hillier, then chief of Canada’s defence staff, and, with his help, Groves was sent on a cross-country tour visiting bases across Canada, allowing citizens to add their names to the book and send goodwill wishes to troops serving overseas.
The number of signatures quickly snowballed to a list of 80,000 names.
In 2009, Notes from Home arrived at Kandahar Base, in Afghanistan, where soldiers could look through the book, perhaps finding the signature, a photograph, a drawing or a note from a loved one in Canada.
“I watched one fellow leaf through it for two hours looking for his mom’s note,” said Groves.
“He found it,” she added with a smile.
When Notes from Home returned to Canada, the now 20-kilogram book was delivered to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Groves created another scrapbook, Notes from Afghanistan, which contains the signatures, notes, photographs and drawings of the soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
Notes from Afghanistan contains the names of some of the 157 Canadian servicemen who were killed in action, including the signature of Capt. Jeff Francis of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.
In 2007, Groves visited his parents’ home, where she traced the hand of then seven-month old Ry Francis.
A photograph of the page was sent to Francis on Father’s Day, and the captain traced his own hand over his son’s print.
On July 6, 2007, Francis was killed by an improvised explosive device.
Groves has also created special scrapbooks called Fallen Memory Books for the families of soldiers who have died while serving overseas in Afghanistan.
“The least we can do is remember every single soldier who has fallen,” she said. “If any soldier should fall anywhere – I will never stop.”