The last Canadians left Afghanistan on Wednesday.
It was a mission borne of good intentions but paid for in the blood of young Canadians, including a Prince Albert resident.
As the last 100 soldiers left the country -- Col. Ivy Miezitis will go down in history as the final Canadian to step on the plane -- our nation’s 12-year legacy continues to be written.
Ultimately we’ll leave that discussion in the hands of historians, who will have the benefit of hindsight in measuring the true impact of our time in the central Asian nation of nearly 30 million.
Certainly the estimated $18.5 billion spent there could have done a lot of good at home.
But the true cost of the conflict can be measured in the lives of 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors who died there.
There’s a website that has a gallery of all of the young Canadians who paid the ultimate price.
It’s a mugshot that they surely realized would only see the light of the day if the very worst happened. For these 158, it did.
Some are smiling in their picture while others are grim faced.
There are men and women. There are faces of many ethnic heritages.
There are some impossibly baby-faced 20-year-olds and a 59-year-old diplomat.
Some wear glasses, some don’t.
In other words, they are a fairly representative swath of our country.
The first Canadians to set foot in the country were members of the special Joint Task Force 2, who went into the country in December of 2001.
The mission started in a rather ignoble way back in 2002 when the first casualties came from a friendly fire incident in which an American pilot mistook a training exercise as a real attack on Kandahar Airport.
It was the first taste Canadians would get of the war to come.
The combat mission in Kandahar eventually saw as many as 40,000 Canadians rotating through the country, with the end coming in 2011.
Some soldiers were left there to help with training and some reconstruction projects. The last of them left on Wednesday.
In all, 95 soldiers would die in improvised explosive device attacks, 21 due to combat attacks, 11 by suicide bomber, seven due to friendly fire, six in car accidents, two in a helicopter crash, two in accidental falls, two from accidental gunshots, two in non-specified ways and one by suicide.
The toll continues to mount at home with suicides by soldiers who were deployed there.
The names of 17 soldiers and civilians with ties to Saskatchewan who died in Afghanistan are enshrined on the Saskatchewan War Memorial in Regina. On Wednesday, flags flew at half-mast in the province.
The soldiers who died in Afghanistan need to be remembered every bit as much as the men and women who fought and died for us in previous conflicts, whether they fell in Europe during the world wars, in Korea in the 1950s, in Bosnia in the 1990s or the many other places Canadians were killed.
Afghanistan may or may not live on but the sacrifice of our soldiers will be forever.
Prince Albert Daily Herald