Afghanistan veteran works on new cenotaph at Georgian College
August 04, 2011

For some construction workers, building a cenotaph means pushing around earth and pouring concrete. For Tyler Bothman, it is a very personal and meaningful experience.

Bothman spent seven months as a soldier with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, so working on the new cenotaph being built at the Barrie Campus of Georgian College, is close to his heart. During his time as a machine gunner on convoys, protecting the delivery of vital goods, he was often in danger. One of his fellow soldiers lost part of his hand when a rocket propelled grenade sent shrapnel flying around the convoy. Death was always a possibility and Bothman was reminded daily what a dangerous job everyone was doing.

The $235,000-project is the result of the dreams of various college staff members who wished to honor those who have served and are serving in the Canadian military. The cenotaph will be a gathering place of peace and reflection for students, staff and visitors alike.

An official commemoration ceremony for the cenotaph will be held on Oct. 6. It will be inaugurated on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, which is a very special day in history. . .11/11/11, at 11 a.m. The public is welcome to donate to this notable community project by contacting the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 705-728-1968, ext. 1210.

The location of the cenotaph is also meaningful for Bothman. He graduated from Georgian’s one-year Pre-Health Sciences program before pre-training for Afghanistan at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for seven months. He was further trained by the military as a Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) personnel, a first responder to initiate medical assistance until it is safe for the platoon medic to take over. Now 21, Bothman plans to pursue a career as a police officer.

Bothman was a Corporal in Afghanistan and returned last December. He was promoted to Master Corporal once he returned to his home unit, the Grey and Simcoe Foresters. Bothman was on a three-month paid leave, part of a re-integration plan for service people coming home.

“I was getting bored and then I got this job with Outdoor Living Landscapes (the cenotaph contractor),” said Bothman. “They told me I was going to be a labourer and that was fine. It was a surprise when I found out I’d be working on a new cenotaph. I thought that would be awesome.”

While it’s hard work and most of the time Bothman is simply focused on the task at hand, he says he often pauses to reflect on what he is helping to build.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for this and I put a lot of pride into it. This cenotaph has great sentimental value to me and I’m honoured to be able to be a part of building it.”

While in Afghanistan, Bothman was chosen to be a cenotaph guard on Remembrance Day. He remembers it vividly as being a very poignant experience.

“It was long. It was really emotional; a tough day. A lot of people were really down,” he recalls.

Regardless of the emotions such ceremonies evoke, Bothman believes the new cenotaph will be a great testament to all the men and women who have fought for freedom and some who lost their lives doing so.

Bothman was only 19 when he landed in Afghanistan. Some students at Georgian College are even younger than that, and Bothman hopes the cenotaph will be a constant reminder to them of both history and what is going on elsewhere in the world today.