Afghan Tim Hortons closure end of an era
Published Monday, November 28, 2011 3:53PM EST
As Tim Hortons closes up shop in Afghanistan, soldiers aren't just losing a chance for their daily double-double, but ordinary Canadians are losing a unique opportunity to give back to the troops.
Wendy Hayward worked at the coffee outlet in Kandahar after her son, Cpl. James Hayward Arnal, 25, was killed in a July 2008 roadside bomb attack.
"James was all about people, his buddies were really important to him. And after I lost him, it was something I could give him without him having to physically be here, so I went and served his buddies," she told CTV News Channel Monday. "I was a part of something greater than myself and it was such a great feeling."
Hayward took early retirement from her Winnipeg job, to take a six-month position at Tim Hortons in Afghanistan in 2010.
"A lot of us would have been there without pay, without question," she said.
Hayward said when she arrived at Kandahar she was worried she would remind soldiers of the "worst-case scenario" but said she was greeted with open arms when they learned she was the mother of a fallen comrade.
"Very quickly in my tour that cup of coffee became a cup of freedom," she said. "I recognized quickly what it meant for the soldiers. It was five minutes of freedom from what they were doing, the heat, and the spiders and snakes.
"Tim Hortons was the heart of Kandahar. People would flock to it."
Hayward broke into tears as she recalled a young man -- she did not know his name -- coming to her on his last day in Afghanistan, and telling her he wouldn't forget her.
"For a split second, I saw James," she said, struggling to keep her composure.
"I knew then that I had accomplished what I set out to do."
Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services operated the shop, with proceeds going to programs for military families.
Canada's combat mission wrapped up in July after almost a decade in Afghanistan. Some troops have remained in the country to train Afghan soldiers.
Over the outlet's five-and-a-half-year run, Tim Hortons did not charge the usual franchising fees and operating costs.
The outlet plans to close down at the end of the month.
During its run, the Tim Hortons served around four million cups of coffee, three million donuts and about half a million iced coffees.
More than 230 people went to work at the base outlet, the company said.