Soldiers raise money in Father’s Day run in Kandahar

Last Updated: 21st June 2009, 12:32pm

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Father’s Day brought heightened memories of home for many Canadian soldiers Sunday, while others arose early for a different kind of mission: a charity run around part of Kandahar Airfield.

The soldiers, most from Quebec, have been in Afghanistan for about three months following long stretches of pre-deployment absences.

“I miss my guy,” Master Cpl. Patrick Levesque said of his five-year-old son in Quebec City.

“I’m going back to see him in two weeks, and I’ll be proud to see my little boy.”

Weighed down by flak vests, helmets, boots, water and rifles, several dozen soldiers and some civilians tackled the 6.5 kilometre (approx 4 miles!) “Loop for the Troops” with a gusto inspired by the promise of free coffee at the finish line, if not breakfast in bed.

It was the second annual run, and the first time it was held in Kandahar. The distance is half required to meet minimum basic fitness levels in the Canadian Forces.

The event was initiated by Michael Hornburg in memory of his son Cpl. Nathan Hornburg, who was killed in Afghanistan in September 2007 when he got out of a disabled tank and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The 94 runners and walkers, including a trio of groggy reporters, raised close to US$6,000 for various military-related efforts including a wall of honour for fallen soldiers in Calgary, where organizers were hoping more than a thousand people would take part in a similar event on Sunday.

Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s senior commander in Afghanistan, led the way from Kandahar’s boardwalk on a route that followed one of the few tarred roads on the sprawling air base to minimize dust.

Despite the early morning temperatures in the low 20s, participants sweated and puffed their way, drinking copious amounts of water and spurring one another on.

After the final stragglers had made it back to the boardwalk and helped themselves to free Tim Hortons coffee — real half-and-half cream optional — Vance briefly addressed the motley, sweaty throng.

“No soldier dies in vain,” he said in reference to Hornburg.

He paid tribute to the race winner, Maj. Joey Boland, a soldier-athlete close to Olympic calibre, who finished in around 29 minutes despite the heavy gear.

Others spent Sunday working — as most people here do.

Still, Maj. Jean-Francois Lacombe called Father’s Day “special.”

“It brings our minds to the family,” he said.

The money raised by the run also goes to support a veterans hospital, scholarships and cadets.