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Calendar commemorates fallen Canadian soldiers

By Pete Fisher, Northumberland Today

A fallen soldier's uncle has come up with a calendar to educate people across the country on why Canada is in Afghanistan and the good the soldiers are doing.

Shane Keating's nephew, 30-year-old Cpl. Shane Keating, was killed on Sept. 18, 2006 along with three other soldiers when a suicide bomber rode his bicycle up to a group of Canadian soldiers on foot patrol.

Mr. Keating, a principal of Our Lady of Wisdom School in Chestermere, Alberta, came up with the idea of a calendar after speaking with other families of fallen soldiers last year (Gaetan and Diane Dallaire, Mel and Helen Keller, Linda Loree and Michael Hornburg, and Tim and Sally Goddard).

From those meetings the group called FIRMM (Families In Remembrance of Military Members) was formed.

FIRMM is a registered non-profit society in Alberta.

The calendar was complete in September and costs $20.

"The idea behind the calendar was to try and create that aspect and let people look past the uniform because these are truly great Canadians," Mr. Keating said from his home in Alberta.

The calendar is called They Made A Difference. The front features pictures of the 97 soldiers who have died while serving in Afghanistan.

The inside front page is titled Dear Canadians and has a letter from Captain Nichola Goddard, who wrote to her family while serving in Afghanistan.

Capt. Goddard wrote she felt the more interaction with the people of Afghanistan, the more she felt a purpose of being there.

She ended her letter by stating, "There is nowhere else that I'd rather be right now."

Mr. Keating said the calendar is meant to show "how we, as family members, really feel that grief and we deal with it many, many different ways, but we are there to support their chosen career.

"The remarkable thing is the soldiers truly understand the sacrifice."

One of the pallbearers at his nephew's funeral was later killed in Afghanistan.

"If you read the quotes by a lot of soldiers (they) talk about how all they want to do is get the children of Afghanistan a life like they have."

Two pages in the calendar list the statistics on the changes that have happened in Afghanistan since 2001.

"It's amazing and that's the story that really needs to be told," Mr. Keating said.

A poppy appears on the date of each soldier's death on the calendar.

The calendar shows pictures of fallen soldiers in uniform, but also shows the soldiers in civilian clothes, with family members or relaxing.

The aim was to show the soldiers and the two roles: one as a beloved family member and the other as a member of the Canadian Forces.

"There are pictures of a father holding his child on a beach on a holiday, pictures of Nichola Goddard sitting on a dock that looks like it could be anywhere in Canada," Mr. Keating said.

A quote in calendar from Regimental Sergeant Major Bob Girouard's children states, "our memories of our father are forever immortalized in the legacy he has left behind. We are privileged to have known him and to be an extension of his legacy, love and devotion. He did not have to die to be our hero."

Mr. Keating said he hopes the calendar will give Canadians an emotional tie to the soldiers.

"You don't want them to be grief-stricken, but you want them to feel some of the sadness the families feel," he said.

Each month on the calendar has a theme. April's is education, and pictures provided by the Department of National Defence show children standing outside their school and soldiers handing out school supplies.

FIRMM's four objectives are:

1. Education within Canada, while emphasizing the soldiers as family members and that they did make a difference.

2. Support family sponsored events in remembrance of fallen soldiers.

3. Support Canadian veterans with an emphasis on wounded soldiers.

4. Support reconstruction in areas of conflict.

Funds raised from calendar sales will be distributed under the guidance of families of fallen

manner that is fitting of the price our family members and our families have paid for all Canadians," states FIRMM's website.

Mr. Keating said he believes the fallen soldiers are still serving Canadians.

"They are completing their task through us by allowing us to tell the story of who they were and what they've done and what they were willing to defend for."

national organization to help sell the calendars.

The calendars are available locally at the Cobourg Firehall, 111 Elgin St. East, from 8 a. m. to 4 p. m. Monday to Friday.

Visit FIRMM's website, www.FIRMM.ca, for more information.

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Cobourg Fire Chief Al Mann holds calendars honouring fallen Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The Cobourg Fire Department offered to act as an agent for the sale of the calendars.

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