05/04/2014 02:49 EDT | Updated 07/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Ceremony marks return of coloured patch for Atlantic Canadian army soldiers

HALIFAX - A division army commander says the resurrection of a coloured uniform patch brings the Canadian Army back to its roots and honours soldiers who fought for the country in both world wars.

The maroon patch will identify members of the 5th Canadian Division, which represents roughly 8,000 soldiers in Atlantic Canada, said Brig.-Gen. Nicolas Eldaoud.

"Be proud. Be very proud," Eldaoud told soldiers the 36 Canadian Brigade Group at a ceremony in Halifax on Sunday to mark the patch's return, nearly 70 years after it was last seen on a soldier's uniform.

"When you wear it, you're honouring all those soldiers who did wear that patch, or any patch, over the last two Great Wars."

Eldaoud, commander of the 5th Canadian Division, said the patch was worn by soldiers during the first and second world wars as a means of identifying which division they were part of. The practice was dropped after the Second World War because the Canadian army was smaller and divisions were unnecessary, he said.

Eldaoud said reinstating the patches restores a piece of Canadian history.

"It makes a clear link with the soldiers that served before and did wear that patch," said Eldaoud after the ceremony at the historic Halifax Armoury in the city's downtown.

"It's even more pertinent now that we're at the eve of the centennial of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War."

Sgt. Ahmad Alqenai, who has served in the army for six years, said it will be an honour to add the two-inch-by-three-inch rectangular wool badge to the left shoulder of his dark green service dress jacket.

"A lot of soldiers in World War I and World War II wore that patch in battle, so now we can actually honour their memory by wearing it," said Alqenai.

The event in Halifax was the first of four similar ceremonies taking place this month in Gagetown, N.B., Charlottetown, and St. John's, N.L.

Eldaoud said all members of the 5th Canadian Division should have the patch on their uniforms by the end of the summer. The addition of the patch does not change normal operations.

There are a number of units of the 36 Canadian Brigade Group whose past members would have served in the 5th Canadian Division in the world wars, including the Cape Breton Highlanders and the 1st Armoured Brigade Headquarters Squadron, now known as the Prince Edward Island Regiment.

Members of the division provide land support both domestically and abroad.

A team of 50 engineers from Gagetown were deployed to the Philippines in November to help assess the damage of Typhoon Haiyan.

Members have also helped with disasters at home, including the Swissair Flight 111 crash in Nova Scotia in 1998 and the aftermath of 2003's hurricane Juan.

The federal government announced last July that the coloured patches would be reinstated for the military divisions across the country.

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