EDMONTON - Volunteers hope a book of personal stories and images they've compiled from soldiers who served in Afghanistan will help Canadians remember a conflict that some fear is already fading from the public eye.
"Afghanistan: A Canadian Story" also contains words submitted by police and civilians who served in places such as Kandahar, and the reminiscences of a mother of a soldier who was killed in action.
Melanie Graham, editor of the coffee-table book, said the publication this month of the human stories will help people better understand what it was like to serve in the bloody, unresolved conflict and how it has affected the soldiers.
"There was no clean closure to the Afghan mission from the Canadian perspective, or from anyone's perspective," said Graham, a retired military public affairs officer.
"The popular sentiment is let's just not talk about it, because we are not really sure what we accomplished."
Net proceeds from the book, up to $150,000, are to be donated to organizations that help soldiers and their families.
The cost of publishing 5,000 copies has been donated by the Power Workers' Union in Ontario. An ebook version is planned for the spring.
Graham said the book contains anecdotes of some 150 men and women — in their own words — who served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014 . It includes a list of all the Canadian soldiers and civilians who died in the conflict.
She said the book will be cathartic for soldiers who feel their efforts have been taken for granted or who are still dealing with their experiences overseas.
"Is their bitterness? Is their frustration? Yes. Is there stress? Is there anxiety? Yes. Look at the statistics for post-traumatic stress disorder. It has taken its toll."
Graham expects many soldiers and former soldiers will buy it as a kind of yearbook. Copies were given to the families of the 158 Canadian troops and five civilians who died in the conflict.
She said having the book at home will help spark conversations or help family members and friends who leaf through it understand what it was like to serve for months in an area where soldiers had to be hyper-vigilant, not being able to tell friend from foe.
"It is very difficult for a lot of the folks who served to talk to their families about their experiences in Afghanistan, because if you weren't there, it is very difficult to grasp.
"It is cathartic. It is insightful. It is human."
On Sunday, Graham and her fellow volunteers are hosting a public launch for the book at Edmonton Garrison, a sprawling military base that is home to many of the units that were deployed to Afghanistan.
An estimated 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan at different times over 14 years, she said.
"These are boots-on-the-ground stories, the human perspective that will give Canadians an insight into the very ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things on behalf of Canadians."
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