Fallen soldiers’ families to participate in national ceremony

Sherry Martell webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on May 7, 2014

TRURO – Members of an elite group here will tell you they are part of a club that no one would ever volunteer to join.

However, through circumstances beyond their control, they have become a close-knit group sharing a common thread. They are all parents of fallen Canadian soldiers.

“In Nova Scotia, the fallen families have ‘The Club That No One Wants To Belong To,’” said Robin Tedford, of Upper Brookside, near Truro. Robin and his wife Paulette lost their son Sgt. Darcy Tedford, 32, while he was serving in Afghanistan on Oct. 14, 2006.

Since that time, they have become friends with members of about 17 families in the province related to the deaths of their children.

“We all stay in touch,” Robin said.

Truro resident Barry Mellish and wife Sandy are also members of this unique club.

Their son, Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, 38, was killed a little more than a month before Tedford on Sept. 3, 2006 along with three other Canadian soldiers.

Mellish joked while no one wants to join their group, it means a lot to the members because of the support they offer each other they never feel alone in the grief and loss of their loved ones.

These local couples will be among the families of about 158 fallen soldiers from across Canada lost on Afghanistan soil, on Friday as they attend the inaugural National Day of Honour in Ottawa. May 9 has been set aside by the federal government to mark the end of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan and will hold a ceremony on Parliament Hill to pay tribute to the fallen, the sacrifices of the wounded and the burden borne by families.

“To honour our son, of course, and to make sure that he’s not forgotten, but also over the past eight years we’ve met parents and/or spouses of fallen soldiers and we’ve become close,” said Mellish, explaining why he wanted to attend the event. “We know how they feel and what they are going through and it will be nice to see them again … talk to them and maybe be able to give to them or receive from them some comfort in our losses.”

He said setting aside a day to honour Afghanistan veterans is “a start” but there is a long road ahead for the military to properly recognize the contributions of its serving members and improve supports.

Robin said the event honouring the military members that served in Afghanistan was a

“long time coming.”

He said soldiers returned home without fanfare and this event is overdue.

“To me it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with us or the government. It has everything to do with the fallen and to give respect for the military that served over there,” said the sergeant’s father. 

“I think it’s the very least we could do for these guys that served, the very least.”

While in Ottawa family members of fallen soldiers will attend a breakfast engagement featuring guest speaker Rick Hansen, a ceremony in the Senate chambers and will be front and centre on Parliament Hill during a military fly-by, parade and 21-gun salute.

They will also visit the Centre Block to have a private viewing of a memorial dedicated to the fallen that was moved from a Kandahar base to that location.

In addition to supporting this event, the Tedfords have not abandoned the Red Friday movement, wearing the bright colour at least once a week.

“People know what red means now,” said Robin. “It’s a simple way for people to show support and respect for all three forces and what they are doing for us. “

Paulette said participating in the day of honour would offer them closure.

“Because we are all together and we see the pride,” said the sergeant’s mom. “It’s pride that keeps us going. It’s trying to put it into words, the very words that they had since the Second World War ‘lest we forget.’”

At 1:30 p.m. on Friday people are encouraged to observe two minutes of silence to reflect on the sacrifices made by families and communities.