Observer photo by Stephen Uhler
General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of Defense Staff, left, presents Debbie and Denis Moncion, owners of Moncion Grocers Petawawa Market, a certificate recognizing 25 years of service to the community during the Red Friday Rally held yesterday. Petawawa Market has been a strong supporter of the military and Red Fridays, helping to raise money for the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre through the sale of the "support the troops" signs, getting red T-shirts for their entire staff to show their support, and in other ways.
On Friday, about 500 people gathered at the parking lot of Moncion Grocers Petawawa Market over the lunch hour to take part in a Red Friday Rally, a way to salute the troops and their families.
"Red Friday is about showing support," she said, both to the soldiers and their families back home. Events like Friday's rally are important in that they show how much the public backs the efforts of the troops, as they get ready to deploy to Afghanistan for another tour of duty.
"We, as a community, will continue to hold them in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers," Ms. Miller said.
Proceeds from the sales are directed to the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre, helping it support military families.
The Moncions were honoured several times throughout the rally, including by Gen. Natynczyk, who presented them with a plaque commemorating their store's 25 years of service to the community.
"You are the finest military community I know," he said.
This Red Friday is bittersweet for the CDS. He attended the funeral of a member of 3 RCR who passed away from cancer in the same week three more soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
"We have to reflect on our losses and the three families in mourning," Gen. Natynczyk said, knowing the community will wrap itself around these families to support them in their time of need, as they do elsewhere in the military.
This support of them and their families helps, he said, and gives the soldiers the strength to carry on even after being "hit hard in the gut" by losses.
"I'm proud of them and I'm proud of being your Chief of Defence Staff."
MP Cheryl Gallant thanked the efforts of Ms. Miller and Ms. Boire for starting and continuing the Red Friday campaign.
"You blanketed a red carpet from one end of Canada to the next," she said, and helped remind the country there is no higher calling than those who serve our nation in uniform.
The MP said as the ongoing mission in Afghanistan continues and the media coverage increases, it is important to remember why Canada is in there in the first place - to fight those who would threaten our security elsewhere.
"When the going gets really tough, we have to hunker down and remember that," she said.
Theresa Sabourin, executive director of the PMFRC, said they are gathered to show support for the military no matter where they are serving. She said while the focus is on Afghanistan, they shouldn't forget the soldiers serving all over the world.
"Canadian Forces members defend our sovereignty and defend the peace," she said. "They are heroes to most and deeply committed to their jobs."
Ms. Sabourin said it is important to remember their strength is in their families, who themselves have a tremendous commitment to back the soldiers. She said for the rest of the community, it is vital to remind military families they stand with them too.
"You are not alone," she said. "You have a whole community behind you."
MPP John Yakabuski said events such as this rally, along with regularly observing Red Fridays, serve to show the military family the entire Ottawa Valley supports and stands behind them.
"We need to make sure on a regular basis we thank them," he said. "In fact, we can't thank them enough."
Lt.-Col. Bill Moore, commander of CFB Petawawa, said the way the community has rallied around base personnel during good times and bad has brought them all much closer together. He said military life has always been tough on those who serve and their families and stressed one cannot underestimate the positive impact of events such as Red Fridays.
"It is crucial to remember the community support you give does make a difference," Lt. Col. Moore said.