Diana Abel will never forget the telephone call she received in May 1993 telling her that her son, Corporal Michael David Abel, had been killed while on duty in Somalia.
“They simply said that there had been an accident,” Abel told CTV’s Beverly Thomson. “You just fall apart. It’s very difficult to comprehend that two weeks before he’s coming home, he’s not coming home.”
Abel is this year’s National Memorial Cross Mother. Also known as the Silver Cross, the honour is bestowed every year by the Royal Canadian Legion to the mother of a fallen Canadian soldier. On behalf of all mothers who share the pain of losing a child in the military, Abel will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Nov. 11
“I was very flattered,” she said of receiving the Silver Cross. “I’m very honoured to be given the role.”
Abel’s son was a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment’s 3 Commando unit when he was deployed to Somalia. The unit was responsible for securing the airport in the city of Belet Uen so that food and other humanitarian supplies could arrive in the war-torn country.
“He loved the military,” Abel said. “He liked the discipline of it, he liked the comradery of it, and he felt that going to Somalia, he was finally doing the job he was trained to do.”
Abel’s son was killed in an accident while a fellow soldier was cleaning his gun. He died just a few short weeks before the end of Operation Deliverance, a peace-keeping mission that began in Dec. 1992. Only 27 years old, Cpl. Abel was Canada’s only military death in Somalia.
“There are times when I have to cry,” Abel said. “But it’s not just this week. Every time I hear of a member dying, all I think of is those parents are getting that phone call. And it just tears me apart to think that here’s another family going to have to go through all of this.”
Abel says that laying a wreath in Ottawa on Remembrance Day will be a moment of both pride and sadness.
“I’m honouring my son,” she said. “But it also means I’m representing these women, that are going through, that have gone through the same thing I have… We’re all suffering, we’re all hurting, and we want to do something to help.”