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Decommissioned military mainstay being turned into Afghan war monuments

CALGARY - Light armoured vehicles that carried Canadians troops through wartorn Afghanistan are being turned into monuments.

The LAV III, which was first introduced in 1999, served as an eight-wheeled, armour-plated military workhorse for Canadian soldiers during the Afghanistan combat mission.

The 250 retired vehicles are being donated by the federal government and offered as memorials to communities across Canada. They became synonymous with Canadian troops on the ground in Afghanistan and were made by General Dynamics Land Systems in Canada.

"It was used extensively in Afghanistan and it was the workhorse for the forces there," said Shawne Deane from Canada Company, a military-focused nonprofit that brings business and community leaders together to support the Canadian military, its veterans and their families.

"It saved lives. It's known by the forces and it is built in Canada for Canadians."

The 17,000-kilogram vehicles will be modified before being transported across Canada.

"These are decommissioned LAVs that have come back from being in theatre in Afghanistan and they are being demilitarized, stripped of all their weaponry, engines, lighting, communications and being saved from the remaining scrapping process," said Deane.

"The government is donating that shell to the program. They're going to sandblast it, weld everything shut so there will be no access to it and replicate barrels, repaint it and make it available for pickup."

Deane later clarified that most of the LAVs in the program were used in Afghanistan, but it's possible some were never sent over.

There have already been 30 applications and expressions of interest in 20 others. The cost for each LAV in the two-year program is $15,000, because the work to get them ready is done by Militex Coatings Inc., not the government.

The selection committee is led by retired Maj-Gen. David Fraser, who was the Regional Command South in Afghanistan's southern provinces in 2006.

One of the applications came from The Military Museums of Calgary, which hopes to include it outside with several other armoured vehicles and monuments already there.

"The bottom line is it's a fighting vehicle and we do have infantry units in Calgary," said MWO Jody Marchuk, the operations manager at the museum.

"The engineers would have used it overseas. The Calgary Highlanders would have used it overseas. It was our main primary convoy vehicle for the Afghanistan campaign and a lot of the reservists who did deploy spent time in LAV IIIs."

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