Captain Kashk Taylor
Private Mark Graham
Black History Month - We serve
By Captain Kashk Taylor
Posted on Thursday February 25, 2021
As we go through February and Black History Month (BHM) 2021, I cannot help but to reflect on the events of the previous year and the ongoing pandemic that is claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians across our country and millions of people across the world. The previous year brought into sharp focus our need as a society to unite in order to overcome adversity and further validated the axiom of “united we stand and divided we fall”.
In 2020, The Black Lives Matter movement was re-energized in opposition the dogma and actions for those who would promote hatred and inequality in our society. The year 2020, taught us that adversity; if given another name (pandemic, racial discord, economic upheaval), and its origin attributed to a specific group, can pull at the fabric of our community with the intent of unravelling that which unites us. We must all guard against this and rebuff those, who would try to highlight our differences with respect to race, ethnic origin, religion, colour, sex or sexual orientation; as a means of creating division and discontent.
We should all strive to be ambassadors of engagement and agents of change, bridging the gap between our own island of intolerance and ignorance, towards those we would regard as different, with the goal of embracing and learning as a community. In doing that, we will take the requisite first steps toward creating a community that is truly inclusive and united. Furthermore, I hold steadfast to the ideal that as Canadians we can continue to rise above our differences and unite in conducting a thorough examination of our past actions in order to stitch together a more inclusive future now - for ourselves and the next generation.
This year for Black History Month 2021 the Government of Canada’s theme is “The Future is now/L’avenir c’est maintenant” and in keeping with this, the Petawawa branch of the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) will be focusing on Black Canadians that have served in the Canadian Armed Forces and juxtaposing their service with that of currently serving members.
I have chosen to highlight the service of Private Mark Graham who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in Afghanistan.
Born in Jamaica, Mark Graham moved to Hamilton, Ontario with his family as a child. An exceptional athlete, he was a member of the Canadian 4 x 400 metre relay team in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. While his team did not reach the finals, Graham’s skills in track-and-field would go on to earn him an athletic scholarship from the University of Nebraska and later at Kent State University in Ohio.
In 2004, he answered the call to serve and enlisted in the Canadian Forces. Private Graham was sent to Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He was an excellent role model for the younger soldiers and had an excellent record of efficiency in his unit. Tragically, the 33-year old was killed by “friendly fire” on September 4, 2006, when his platoon was mistakenly attacked by an American warplane during an operation to capture a Taliban stronghold west of Kandahar.
Graham is buried at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa and, in 2010, a Hamilton park where he had played as a boy was renamed “Mark Anthony Graham Memorial Olympic Park” in his honour. I can confidently say, Private Mark Graham wore his uniform with pride, he was a proud and valued member of the Royal Canadian Regiment (Royals) and he treated others with respect across all aspects of military life.
Private Graham’s sacrifice reinforces the fact that Black Canadians have always been on the front line defending and serving their country throughout its history and that there have been those who have unfortunately paid the ultimate price while standing on guard for Queen and country. Private Graham’s biography should demonstrate that Black Canadians have brought a wealth of experience to the CAF and as an institution it is truly better for it.
My own service to country spans twenty years, starting with my enlistment in 2001, as a Private and continues today as a commissioned officer at the rank of Captain. I am the first in my family to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), a similarity shared by my spouse, and with our children, we have been a part of the Petawawa community for the last six years. We are Canadians who take pride in putting on the uniform and representing our family and our country. I have completed five deployments so far with the CAF, two to Eastern Europe and three to Afghanistan. I am a proud Royal, and I use every occasion given to me, to speak highly of the opportunities available for all to serve their country because the future we all want is needed now.
No one can argue that Black Canadians have served alongside their fellow Canadians with honour and integrity and therefore, those who have died for country should be recognized by society in the same manner as all others. We all serve with the hope of making society better for the next generation. My hope is that the future will be more inclusive because of the sacrifice made by Private Mark Graham and those like him who answered the call to serve and never waivered. To honour their memory, we must create that future now; we must create that future now, through remembrance; we must create that future now, with open and honest discussion; and we must create that future now, with policy, grounded in respect and truth. “The Future is now / L’avenir c’est maintenant”. Pro Patria.
(Picture and Biography sourced: www.veterans.gc.ca)