Sunday, November 04, 2012

Veteran's Week 2012

On Sunday, November 4th, I had the opportunity to join citizens of Waterloo Region as they took time to remember and honour our Veterans at a memorial ceremony at Veteran’s Green Park in Waterloo. Represented were veterans from the army, navy and air force as well as the Cadets from our area.   Veterans' Week is a time when Canadians honour those who have sacrificed to defend Canada's values of freedom and democracy and is a time to remember all Canadian Veterans and honour those who serve today. We commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of our brave Canadians whose legacy is the peace and security we continue to enjoy as Canadians.

Today's event included an assembly at the memorial, a traditional Veteran’s Day service ministered by Rev. Paul Ellingham, Last Post and Revelle by Lt Chris Patterson, and a wreath-laying ceremony. The sound of the bagpipes resonated throughout the area of the Lament as Adam Annandale approached the flag that sadly waved at half mast. 

This upcoming Veterans' Week (November 5th-11th), take time to remember by attending a Remembrance Day ceremony, visiting a local cenotaph or monument, sharing your thoughts of remembrance online, or wearing a poppy with pride. Learn more and find remembrance events and activities in your area at

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Wishing all our troops, here and abroad

a Happy Canada Day!

We are always by your side!

Ministers MacKay and Fantino Celebrate Canada Day with Troops in Afghanistan
 AFGHANISTAN--(July 1, 2012) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, and Major-General Jonathan Vance, Director of Staff, Strategic Joint Staff, were in Afghanistan today to celebrate Canada Day with Canadian Forces members deployed in support of Op ATTENTION, Canada's contribution to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.

"It is with the utmost pride that I have the opportunity to celebrate Canada Day with the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces," said Minister MacKay. "Our personnel serving in Afghanistan continue to make great strides in their mission. Their strength, perseverance and leadership are a source of pride and inspiration for Canadians everywhere, and remind of the greatness that our country can achieve."

"I am honoured to celebrate Canada Day among some of Canada's best and bravest here in Afghanistan," said Minister Fantino. "The effort, integrity and unparalleled dedication of all Canadian Forces members to the fulfillment of their mission whether at home or abroad is truly remarkable."

"Every time I return to Afghanistan I see the improvement that the combined work of Afghans and Canadians are making to the country," said Major-General Vance. "Efforts to improve conditions are apparent everywhere - and our Canadian Forces members continue to do incredible work, contributing to Afghanistan's future. I am proud to be with them here on Canada Day."

During their visit, Ministers MacKay and Fantino met with Canadian Forces leadership and personnel, attended a medal ceremony for Canadian troops, met with Afghanistan's Minister of the Interior Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and participated in a town hall meeting. Minister MacKay also met with General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, and with General Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan's Minister of Defence. The visit today concluded with a Canada Day BBQ and entertainment. Canadian Forces members were entertained by Glass Tiger, comedian Kelly Taylor, singer-songwriter Liz Coyles, and had an opportunity to meet former hockey players Tiger Williams and Mark Napier as part of a Team Canada visit to Afghanistan

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

GI Film Festival Includes Canadian Soldier Marc Diab Documentary

The parents of deceased Canadian soldier Marc Diab, mother Jihani Diab and father Hani, take a moment at home with a picture of their late son, Marc. The Canadian trooper was killed three years ago in Afghanistan by an IED.
The parents of deceased Canadian soldier Marc Diab, mother Jihani Diab and father Hani, take a moment at home with a picture of their late son, Marc. The Canadian trooper was killed three years ago in Afghanistan by an IED.
Colin McConnell/Toronto Star  Mary OrmsbyFeature Writer
Written for The Toronto Star
Young Marc Diab and his family would halt, standing still on the roadside, whenever Israeli tanks lurched through the streets of their Lebanese village in the 1990s.
In the security zone along the Israel-Lebanon border, the military vehicles were a steel-plated reminder of the region’s political instability, an uncertain state in which some Ain-Ebel villagers saw no future.
But in those tanks, filled with gun-toting troops, little Marc saw his: life as a soldier.
“He used to say, even back in Lebanon when we used to have the Israeli army go through our streets all the time, ‘I want to be a soldier, I want to be a soldier,’” recalls eldest sister Jessica Diab, 30, of the time her brother was about 8.
But Diab would not fight for Lebanon, where an only son is not permitted to enlist. He became a soldier in Canada, the peaceful country that lured his family from Ain-Ebel to Mississauga 12 years ago. But the soldier — who would die in Afghanistan at age 22 — carried a secret. A premonition of his death. One so strong that he made a farewell video for his family and entrusted a friend to show it at his funeral.
To see video footage the day of the funeral, click here
Diab’s extraordinary story is the focus of an award-winning documentary If I Should Fall, which was invited to the GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. Directed by 24-year-old Brendon Culliton of London, Ont., it will premiere Thursday at the Canadian Embassy before nearly 200 guests, including Pentagon officials.
On March 8, 2009, Trooper Marc Diab of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Squadron D, based in Petawawa, became the 112th of 158 Canadians to die during Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan. (See blog entry)
When Diab died, his LAV III crippled by an improvised explosive device, he left behind front-line video diaries.
A camera junkie, Diab’s calm narrative beneath images of the inane and the tragic — including the battlefield helicopter removal of his friend, Trooper Brian Good, killed Jan. 7, 2009, in an IED attack — is part of the emotional wallop Culliton delivers in the documentary. Two more Squadron D troopers, Corey Hayes and Jack Bouthillier, were killed two weeks after Diab.
Brandon L. Millett., co-founder of the GI Film Festival, says Culliton’s film was chosen because it’s a “beautifully crafted story about one Canadian family.”
“It is such a moving demonstration of how sacrifice and suffering are a universal experience for military families around the world,” Millett says of the feature-length film.
“Those who attend this film screening will never forget Trooper Marc Diab and the sacrifice he made for his country and for the cause of freedom.”
But there was more to Trooper Diab than soldiering.
He organized children’s summer camps through his Maronite Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lebanon. He coached youth soccer in Petawawa. Learned to play music by ear, filling family gatherings with Arabic melodies or modern rock on a Yamaha keyboard.
Diab wrote poetry. He harangued his restaurateur brother-in-law to open a shawarma joint in Petawawa because ethnic food choice was limited. He produced videos and had more than 3,000 photographs stored at home. He threw chocolates and candies to Afghan kids, even when they threw back stones.
Diab was also a loving boyfriend.
In the documentary, there’s a home video of Diab and girlfriend Mary Barakat in a car, carefree, the wind ruffling their hair on a sunny day.
They lean toward each other and share a soft, yielding kiss. She is joyful, radiant, because he has made her so.
A CANADIAN soldier’s life was cheap in Afghanistan.
A few dollars’ worth of materials — fertilizer, diesel fuel, a detonator — and the highly effective IED was ready to kill. Such homemade bombs caused most of the 158 Canadian casualties, most of the horrific maimings, most of a wide range of physical injuries that included mild to severe brain traumas from the shock-wave effect.
But roadside bombs were Plan B, says retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.
MacKenzie says Taliban fighters were no match for Canadian combat troops in face-to-face engagements around Kandahar in 2005 and early 2006, when insurgents were “soundly trounced.”
“Not being stupid,” MacKenzie says, the Taliban rethought their strategy.
“They stepped back one rung on the ladder of escalation and that step back in any number of insurgencies becomes the booby trap,” MacKenzie explains.
It’s a method that allows detonation from afar — a cellphone, for instance, can trigger an IED. Some are pressure sensitive. A booted foot, a tank, will do.
Canadian troopers like Diab would have known those risks, says Maj. Ray Wiss, a veteran emergency physician who served in Afghanistan in 2007 and is the author of two books recounting his combat experiences.
“We do train for almost a year to go on one of these tours — and it’s made pretty clear to them they’re not all coming home,” says Wiss, who was previously a Canadian Forces combat soldier.
The Sudbury doctor does quick calculations. Of the 3,000 Canadians deployed to Afghanistan at any given time, about 1,000 were combat troops. The rest were support personnel.
Wiss figures there was about a 2 per cent chance of a Canadian being killed and another 2 per cent chance of being “very badly mangled.”
“You knew that going in,” Wiss says.
Diab was comfortable with those odds, says his father, Hani.
“I would tell Marc, ‘I’m a brave man in words, I am a strong man, but you did it. To wear the uniform and to take a gun and go make a change somewhere in the world, this is something noble. I couldn’t do what you’re doing,’” Hani Diab recalls telling his son.
“He had guts.”
Sitting calmly in a convoy’s lead vehicle took guts.
“All things being equal, the first vehicle is the most vulnerable,” says Wiss.
Diab was in the lead vehicle the day of his death. In the documentary, his fellow troops recall their fun-loving buddy was not himself. Tired. Quiet.
Did Diab sense his death was imminent? Or was he merely fatigued, his six-month tour due to end in three weeks?
The bomb rocked Diab’s armoured vehicle around 1:15 p.m. local time, north of Kandahar City. Four others were injured, three of them badly. Diab was dead, his omnipresent camera beneath his body, destroyed.
Diab’s body was saluted by throngs of Canadians lining bridges, many from the Lebanese-Canadian community, along the Highway of Heroes en route to the coroner’s office in downtown Toronto. About 1,000 people attended his funeral mass, during which Diab’s farewell video was shown.
His parents had no idea it existed.
Their son had edited silent images of family and friends, played to music. It closed with words he’d written for them:
“Don’t cry . . . ’cause I’ll see you tomorrow.”
SUNDAY WILL BE Jihan Diab’s fourth Mother’s Day without her son, Marc.
She turned 50 on Wednesday. Festive birthday balloons taped to the walls by daughters Jessica and Maya are still up a day later, save for one. Four-year-old grandson Anthony is madly hoofing the balloon around the spacious, sun-filled home, kicking it like a soccer ball.
Anthony looks very much like his uncle. Large brown eyes, thick dark lashes, a shock of curly black hair.
Jihan is elegant, poised, in this lasting grief. She speaks strongly. Even though tears begin to flow, she does not falter.
“I am a happy mother, reaching this age, raising up a good family. I know Marc is not with us physically but he doesn’t leave us,” she says.
“I don’t deal with my loss as a loss. It’s too complicated to explain. I miss his presence, I miss his smell, I miss his touch and hug and this mother-son feeling. But, at the same time, I know that the minute I lost Marc physically, I tried to ask why. Everybody asks. ‘Why me? Why? Why?’”
She pauses for a moment. Hani, her husband, is silent, respectful.
“I closed my eyes, I saw Jesus. I saw a light. I could never explain how. And I saw Marc’s face beside Jesus. So that is when I said: ‘That’s it. I am not supposed to mourn Marc, I am going to live Marc. This is how I will honour him. I will live Marc.’”
As a family, the Diabs are active in keeping their son’s memory alive.
That shawarma joint Marc wanted? It’s now reality. The extended Diab family opened Madameek (a Lebanese word for “many bricks,” Jihan Diab says, meaning strength and protection) in 2010.
It’s a place that honours not only their son but all Canadians who died in Afghanistan.
“We see families from all over Canada,” Hani says, proudly.
“From Kingston, they come to eat in Petawawa, to see Marc’s story, to live it, to see all the pictures in the restaurant. We have all fallen soldiers’ pictures in the restaurant because (it’s) not only dedicated to Trooper Marc Diab, it’s dedicated to Trooper Marc Diab and all the fallen heroes in Afghanistan.”
Two months ago, the Diabs opened a second Madameek in Pembroke.
Closer to home, a stone monument tucked into the Diabs’ front lawn gracefully calls attention to their son. His image and the words “Our hero, son, trooper” are inscribed on a plaque. Jihan’s licence plate is: MARCDIAB.
There is a website, full of photos and information; a children’s foundation in his name; a Mississauga memorial park christened for him, just a few minutes from the Diab home. Last year at the Hershey Centre, his family was honoured at a hockey game, Hani dropping the ceremonial faceoff puck.
Culliton hopes If I Should Fall finds a wider audience to educate the Canadian public about what military families endure during combat missions and, in this case, after a death.
“Even though this film is like an emotional roller-coaster, at no point do I want people to be uncomfortably sad,” says Culliton, who is donating DVD proceeds to the Marc Diab Children’s Foundation and the Military Families Fund.
“I want people to walk away and let it stay with you.”

DVD "If I Should Fall" is available for purchase

Or Use

Proceeds from DVD sales go towards
The Marc Diab Children's Foundation and The Military Families Fund

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Man Honouring Our Troops Told to Move His Truck

What do you think? ....  This truck has been here since our soldiers deployed overseas. Should the city make him move it? Somehow I don't see one of the quoted bylaws listed in the parking regulations in that city, Does this infringe on our freedoms? ...

As posted in The Record March 24, 2012

Man Told to Move Truck that Honours Canada’s Troops
Kitchener resident Jeff Meyer was told by the city to move his retired Canadian Armed Forces truck from his lawn. The truck is decorated as a tribute to the troops who were fighting in Afghanistan.
TRUCK Kitchener resident Jeff Meyer was told by the city to move his retired Canadian Armed Forces truck from his lawn. The truck is decorated as a tribute to the troops who were fighting in Afghanistan.
David Bebee/Record staff
KITCHENER — A man who parked a military truck on his front lawn in support of Canadian troops in Afghanistan was forced to move the vehicle because he was violating a city bylaw.
Not long after Canadian troops went to war in Afghanistan, Jeff Meyer, 49, parked the M-131 army truck on his small front lawn on Victoria Street and decorated it with yellow ribbons, flags and banners. It was a highly visible demonstration of support for the soldiers on that mission and in remembrance of the ones who died there.
“I can’t believe this is happening when the truck has been there for years,” Meyer said.
On Wednesday a city bylaw officer shut him down.
The city forbids parking on front lawns. The city also forbids parking vehicles without plates in driveways. Meyer’s army truck runs well, but it does not have plates.
“Different groups stationed in Afghanistan have photographs of that truck with their unit,” Meyer said. “People from all over the world, who are tourists, took pictures of the truck.
“Local injured soldiers’ mothers have stopped in, crying, to thank me for putting it out there.”
Meyer said he wants a compromise that would allow him to park the truck in the driveway, where it is visible to passersby.
The city’s bylaw department did nothing about the truck for years because nobody complained about it. Bylaw enforcement officers only act on complaints.
Shayne Turner, the head of bylaw enforcement, said the city is sensitive to the fact the truck and banners were a tribute to the troops in the Afghan war.
“We understand the importance and emotional attachment to military issues,” Turner said.
Licensing the vehicle and parking it in the driveway would solve the problem.
“Let’s find something that balances the needs of the property owner and the needs of the neighbourhood,” Turner said.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome home Cale McDowell and our other soldiers who have returned to Canada.

Soldier embraces all Things Canadian after Nine Month Afghanistan Tour

By Jodi Lundmark,
After a nine-month tour in Afghanistan, Cale McDowell is happy to embrace everything Canadian.

“Being able to go walk outside, being able to drive a car by yourself, being able to not carry a gun on you, to relax – that was the big thing I missed was the freedom here,” McDowell said Wednesday after arriving at the Thunder Bay International Airport to a large group of family, friends and other supporters, including Mayor Keith Hobbs and members of the Thunder Bay Police Service.
Finally coming home felt like a dream for McDowell, who served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry based out of Edmonton.
“When you first get off the plane, you start to get the shakes and then walk up and it doesn’t even feel real after so long you can come back and see your family,” he said.
McDowell’s parents, Darlene and Larry, both teared up as they waited for their son to come out of the arrival gate.
After nine months of waiting for her son to come home, Darlene said they are thrilled to know he’s home safe and sound.
No matter what job a soldier has in Afghanistan, they are in harm’s way and she was happy to hug her son, joking that he wouldn’t be allowed out of the house for the next two months.
“We’ve got 900 of our Canadians there in harm’s way every day,” she said.
“There are 900 other families across this country right now hoping to go through what we just had.”
“We’ll pray for them and hopefully they get as good an outcome as we’ve been blessed with,” she added.
The family’s plan for the rest of the evening was to go home and enjoy some of Darlene’s homemade McDowell’s famous sauce.
“All his friends are coming over and we’re going to relax and sit around the table and just hug him and enjoy him and enjoy family,” she said.
McDowell is set to retire from the military and plans to become a police officer.
 News Story click here

"Break the Silence"

Via Military Minds - a nonprofit group founded by Chris Dupee, raising awareness for PTSD, and kicking the stigma surrounding it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thank you Mayor Doug Craig for your continued support of our soldiers. ~ m.m.

Cemetery Bylaw Should be Changed, Cambridge Mayor Says
Greg Mercer, Record staff           
Tue Mar 20 2012
HESPELER — A Cambridge bylaw that forbids the iconic Canadian military headstone in city cemeteries should soon be wiped from the books, Mayor Doug Craig says.
The mayor said he’s fielded plenty of calls from citizens angered by news a Hespeler man’s wishes to be buried at New Hope cemetery with a soldier’s grave marker clashes with a bylaw that says that marker isn’t big enough.
The standard Canadian military headstone, used in cemeteries throughout Canada and the world, is three inches thick — five inches too thin for the required dimensions of the bylaw, designed to ward off vandalism.
The family of Capt. Paul “Spike” Zvaniga, who served 28 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force, found that out the hard way after he died of cancer last week.
The mayor said the bylaw — called “ridiculous” by Manon Bourbeau, a liaison to the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa — was never designed to ban soldiers’ headstones.
“There was no intention here to block anybody out. It was an oversight,” Mayor Craig said. “We’re going to correct it to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
City council plans to make an amendment to the bylaw that would allow an exemption in the case of Zvaniga, who wanted to be buried in his hometown.
They’ll also ask city staff to look into ways to change the cemetery bylaw so this problem doesn’t come up again, the mayor said.
“It became very obvious yesterday afternoon we have an issue with the bylaw. There’s an oversight there, obviously,” he said.
He also said Zvaniga’s family should not have had to deal with this added stress while preparing for a funeral.
“We all feel terribly sorry for how this has unfolded and we feel bad we’ve added more grief to this particular family,” he said.
Zvaniga’s son Eric, meanwhile, said the family is just glad the city is fixing the bylaw.
“My hope is it’s not just an exception for my father, but an amendment that allows other veterans to be buried the way they choose,” he said.
Coun. Rick Cowsill, who represents Hespeler and is a former president of the local Legion branch, said most councillors didn’t even know there was a size restriction for headstones in city cemeteries.
“It’s news to me we even had a bylaw like that, and I’m sure most members of council aren’t aware of it, either,” he said. “I think it’s probably a glitch that nobody thought of many, many years ago.”
Kitchener Record Article

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Slowdown in Petawawa

In Booming Petawawa, No Sign of a Postwar Slowdown

 By Don Butler, Postmedia NewsFebruary 27, 2012
 Ottawa Citizen reporter, Tony Lofaro (L) talks with Jihan Falah (R), mother of Marc Diab, in front of The Madameek Restaurant, on July 23, 2010, in Petawawa, Ont. As a way of dealing with their grief and honouring their son, Marc Diab, who was killed in March 2009 by an IED, the Diab's opened the restaurant in Petawawa. Marc Diab's photo is on the rear window of his jeep.

Photograph by: Jana Chytilova, Ottawa Citizen

PETAWAWA, Ont. — The daily morning traffic jams attest to it. So do the rising subdivisions, the new schools, the plans for a shopping mall.

With troops home from Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan and a new helicopter squadron en route, CFB Petawawa is fuelling an economic boom in this Eastern Ontario community.

There's no post-mission slump here. Instead, Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet says the town's economy sagged at times during the mission, because so many troops were overseas. There were fewer people to buy groceries, new cars and other goods.

"I always say that Petawawa is kind of recession-proof, because you don't lay soldiers off when there's a downturn in the economy," says Sweet. "But when you send abroad 2,000 individuals, it's virtually the same thing."

But now, as Canada's war in Afghanistan is morphing into smaller training mission, the communities around the country's "super-bases" — like Petawawa, Edmonton and Gagetown, N.B. — are undergoing a major shift.

And with nearly 5,000 soldiers and 900 civilians on the payroll, CFB Petawawa is by far the upper Ottawa Valley's largest employer, pumping between $400 million and $500 million a year into the regional economy.

About 60 per cent of the soldiers live off base in Petawawa, Pembroke and other Ottawa Valley communities. As they returned from major deployments in 2006, 2008 and 2010, flush with money earned in combat, many decided to buy a home, says Judy DeGeer, owner of RE/MAX Pembroke Realty.

"The common comment I got was, 'I worked extremely hard and put my life on the line for this money. I need to make a wise investment with that,'" DeGeer says. The result has been a frenzy of homebuilding in Petawawa.

"Over the last three or four years, I suppose we've built a small community," Sweet says. About 800 new homes have gone up, with another 1,200 or so planned.

With nearly 16,000 residents, Petawawa is already the largest community between Ottawa and North Bay. The population is expected to spike to about 19,000 by 2020, Sweet says. One new school is almost built and funding is in place for another.

The federal government's decision to base Canada's new fleet of 15 Chinook helicopters at CFB Petawawa is also goosing the town's growth. The first 100 soldiers will arrive in May and the new helicopter squadron will become fully operational next year. When fully staffed, it will bring 400 to 500 soldiers plus their families to Petawawa.

Construction began about a year ago on a massive $135-million hangar, nearly a kilometre in length. "It's a beast of a construction," says Lt.-Col. Chris Moyle, the base commander. The military expects to spend $835 million on new buildings and infrastructure related to the new helicopter squadron by 2020.

Until now, commercial development hasn't kept pace. The town lacks a proper downtown — Petawawa Boulevard, the main drag, is a nondescript array of strip malls, convenience stores and fast-food outlets — and there's a dearth of stores and services. Most residents make the 20-minute drive to Pembroke for serious shopping.

That's starting to change. Several new businesses have opened in recent years — many run by retired military personnel — and a 350,000-square-foot shopping centre is planned for 2013.

That's good for Petawawa, but it could hurt established businesses in Pembroke, says Gary Melnyk, president of the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce. "You'll have fewer people from Petawawa coming to Pembroke to do their shopping."

One Petawawa business that's thriving is the Madameek, a restaurant that serves authentic Lebanese food. Trooper Marc Diab's relatives opened it in 2010, a year after Diab was killed by a roadside bomb north of Kandahar.

The place is a tribute to the 22-year-old Petawawa soldier, who dreamed of opening a shawarma restaurant in the town. It's such a roaring success that the owners are on the verge of opening a second location in Pembroke.

"This kind of food, they don't have it here. And they like it." says one of the owners, Ghassen Ghanem, Diab's brother-in-law.

A steady stream of customers, many in uniform, stop by to pick up lunch. "It's a little bit slow," Ghanem observes. "Usually they're lined up."

He credits Diab for the business's success. "He's watching us, I'm 100 per cent sure, from the sky, and he blessed everything. That's why everything is OK."

With the rapid growth comes challenges. Some weekday mornings, the town's main street, Petawawa Boulevard, is backed up for two or three kilometres as soldiers and civilian employees head to work on the base. "It's hard to imagine," marvels Sweet. "We've got gridlock here in the Upper Ottawa Valley."

Fixing that won't be cheap. A two-lane bridge over the Petawawa River would have to be replaced to widen to road into the base to four lanes. The town is doing a feasibility study.

It's also spending millions to expand its sewer and water system, which CFB Petawawa relies on to meet its needs. But the base offers plenty in return, including fabulous facilities open to townsfolk at minimal cost.

Local residents can use the base's 18-hole golf course, sail at its yacht club, watch first-run movies at its theatre and work out at its world-class fitness centre, which features a track, two sheets of ice and indoor rock climbing walls.

The facilities were built to serve the needs of the soldiers and their families, says Moyle, who calls the base "a gem within a gem. If we can extend that capacity to the small communities that are around us, I think that just makes us better community partners."

The town has a "wonderful relationship" with the base, Sweet says. "We meet on a regular basis with the base team. It's a healthy relationship and one that's worked quite well."

That wasn't always the case. Soldiers used to rotate out every three years, and more lived on the base. "There was very much a division between the base and the military and ourselves," says Sweet.

Posting out is less frequent now. Some soldiers stay in Petawawa for a decade or more. "We get to know our neighbours an awful lot better," says Sweet. "You go to dances with them or play golf with them."

The base's soldiers are so well integrated that when they were deployed to Afghanistan, it created something of a crisis for sports and other volunteer groups, which rely heavily on them as coaches and organizers. "They're tremendous volunteers and they very much want to be part of our community," Sweet says.

But every silver lining has a dark cloud. Amanda Cheverie, whose husband is ex-military, opened her store, Full Spectrum Gear, in 2007, just before a deployment to Afghanistan.

Soldiers lined up for the store's outdoor tactical equipment. But over the last year, business has fallen off. Post-mission, soldiers don't need the kind of gear Cheverie sells. "I would say that 50 per cent of what I sell has come to a screeching halt or has slowed down noticeably."

Cheverie is adjusting. There are plans to sell firearms and ammunition. "Realistically," she says, "they never go out of style. I knew they wouldn't be in Afghanistan forever, and you have to evolve with the times."

Ottawa Citizen

CFB Petawawa at a glance
Location: Petawawa, Ont., 160 kilometres northwest of Ottawa
History: Founded in 1905 as Camp Petawawa, a summer training ground for the Canadian militia. During the Second World War, as many as 20,000 soldiers were stationed there for training. Renamed CFB Petawawa in 1968 following armed forces unification.
Size: More than 600 buildings, 1,600 housing units, 340 square kilometres of training area and a workforce of 6,000.
Resident military personnel: Fluctuates between 4,000 and 5,000
Civilian employees: 900
Components: 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, which includes the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Two battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment and the second regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, among others. Also home to 2 Area Support Group, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, medical units, military police and other support units.
Deployments to Afghanistan: Major deployments in 2006, 2008 and 2010, plus several smaller deployments.
Casualties: 40 soldiers from units based at CFB Petawawa have died in Afghanistan.
In booming Petawawa, no sign of a postwar slowdown