�People started cheering for Mark Anthony Graham when he was a teenager. A runner at eight years old, the Jamaican-born and Hamilton-raised athlete excelled at track-and-field and went on to win five gold medals with the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.
At 19, he set foot on the world stage, competing in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Representing Canada, he competed in the 4x400m relay and made his hometown — and country — proud.
His track-and-field skills really helped him take off. He earned scholarships from the University of Nebraska and Kent State University in Ohio. His speed and imposing stature — he was 6 feet 4 inches tall — made him stand out from the crowd.
In 2004, he decided to join the army and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He was deployed to Afghanistan to fight alongside allied forces against the Taliban.
His military career ended too early.
On the morning of September 4, 2006, Pte. Graham was killed in a friendly-fire incident in the Panjwali district, about 35 kilometres west of Kandahar. A U.S. fighter pilot had mistakenly fired on Graham’s entire platoon, injuring 37.
Pte. Graham was the only soldier to be killed. He was 33 and had been in Afghanistan for just a month.
Following his death, he was awarded the Sacrifice Medal, which can be awarded posthumously to a member of the military who is killed under honourable circumstances.
His service to Canada is memorialized in more than just a medal. The park that he frequented as a young boy in Hamilton was renamed the Mark Anthony Graham Memorial Olympic Park in 2010. A scholarship was also created in his name. The Mark Graham Memorial Athletic Scholarship is given to students actively involved in track and field.
Even in death, he draws crowds. For years, students in the Hamilton area have raced in his honour at the Mark Graham Memorial Track and Field Meet, which attracts thousands of participants.
Mark Anthony Graham was killed soon after being deployed to Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Veterans Affairs Canada)
Senator Rosemary Moodie
"Pte. Mark Graham was a role model for so many young athletes and he still is to this day,” said Ontario Senator Rosemary Moodie, who is also Jamaican-Canadian.
“The way the people of Hamilton have responded to such a tragedy ensures the sacrifice of Pte. Graham is never forgotten.”