The Ministry of Defence and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) has commemorated the 12th Annual Armed Forces Week celebrations (Armed Forces Day), through an interfaith thanksgiving, which was followed by the laying of wreaths in remembrance of the deaths of fallen heroes in the line of duty, at the Armed Forces cemetery at Regent Road, Lumley in Freetown yesterday 18th February 2021.
The Armed Forces Day came to be celebrated as a result of a declaration of an end to the country’s 11-years civil war by late President Tejan Kabbah, some 12 years ago. The Day is actually the corporate responsibility of the Military of Defence to show the citizenry of Sierra Leone that this is the army they are paying their tax for. The celebration normally follows a demonstration of military capability, performing a ceremonial parade and march along major streets in the country.
Yesterday’s celebration is the corporate responsibility of military organizations the world over to pay their respect to their personnel who died in active service. Policy demands that, the remains of fallen service personnel should be handed over to their relatives to be buried in accordance with their traditions.
However, in circumstances of war where bodies can neither be repatriated nor buried, graves should be made accordingly to enable family members to perform traditional rites after the war.
The grave of the unknown soldier, where all the wreaths were placed by various stakeholders including the Minister of Defence, the Speaker of Parliament, the CDS and other senior statesmen, is a symbolic representation of all war victims whose remains could not be recovered for burial due to prevailing circumstances at the war front.
To honour them in this category, the Ministry of Defence and the RSLAF, considered it appropriate to perform this ceremony. The lighting of the lap at the grave side of the unknown soldier, symbolises one of the roles performed by wives of soldiers in their respective homes in those days signifying, may the perpetual light of God continue to shine on all fallen heroes.
The Minister of Defence Brigadier (Rtd) Keilie Conteh said, the commemoration of Myohaung Day (Remembrance Day) is one that celebrates only one war the Sierra Leone Army participated in. He said based on contributions and sacrifices made by the military in all the wars they had participated in including the 11 years civil war, government through the late President Kabba, considered to put a special day in remembrance of the quality deaths of all those fallen heroes.
The Defence Minister noted, that since the constituency of the present President is that of the Armed Forces, they are keen to improve on their accommodations, welfare, condition of services and their machinery, so they will be in a position to participate in all military activities globally. He appealed to members of the public, not to consider the Armed Forces and all other forces a dumping ground stressing, the President is keen in beefing up the army to the 2020 establishment, which according to him, means they will be recruiting citizens every year to serve their nation.
The CDS told the audience that the Armed Forces Day came 62 years after military personnel in the Commonwealth of nations have been observing the Remembrance or Poppy Day, accordingly he said this is a day used by the President to encourage the citizenry to join the military. He said the celebration is focused mainly on celebrating those fallen soldiers during the World War one and two against which background, late President Kabbah, declared 18th February every year to be used for the remembrance of the quality deaths of their colleagues and a public holiday.
The Chief of Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Sesay said the day like in all countries is used to showcase the capability of the army in order to capture the attention of other citizens to feel belonged with the zeal to join the military. He said since then to date, the army has been contributing in many areas including in the fight against corona, actively involved in agricultural activities, their engineering wings have been supportive to government and other sectors among many.
The Administrator of the Sierra Leone Ex-Service Men Association Retired Lt. Col Dominic B. Sowa, said they are happy to be present in the non-memorable day saying, the two celebrated days for armed personnel by active armed forces personnel is one that gives hope and sends stronger sense of belonging to other citizens. He assured all of their participation in all armed activities and called on government to continue considering them, as a way of encouraging more citizens into the force.