Today, March 12, 2014, officially marks the end of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. Sadly, for 158 Canadian soldiers and their families the end was felt earlier and far more personally.
Read any media report today and mostly what you will find are expressions of gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
For my part, I can’t get passed the sorrow.
That does not mean I am not grateful for the acts of bravery and sacrifice some Canadians are willing to make. However, it does not change the fact that for me personally, I have a really hard time accepting that death is a “line of duty” for some young men and women.
I get it. Sometimes it’s necessary. I just wish it wasn’t so, or there was a different way.
When I think of Afghanistan there are three specific memories that rock me to the core and which are, I am certain, unique. To me that is.
I thought I would share these three memories.
1. The first was on August 29, 2006, and the newspaper photo at right of Corporal Steve Bolduc and his girlfriend Sonia Cormier saying goodbye as the Corporal was being deployed to Kandahar.
For whatever reason I screen-captured the image and have kept it since. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know the couple whatsoever. And my guess is there are probably hundreds if not thousands of similarly shared moments between couples in identical circumstances. For some reason this one got to me. I remember that day wondering; will Corporal Bolduc make it … will they once again look into each others eyes in the same way? I hope so.
2. The second item that got to me, big time, was a video tribute I came across in October 2008, around Thanks Giving. It’s probably one of the most gut-wrenching renditions of Oh-Canada you will ever watch and hear. It features a tribute to the first 29 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. I’ve watched the video dozens of times and it still gets to me every single time. I guarantee it will get to you too if you have any kind of heart or sympathy for the pain and agony some families face.
You can watch the video tribute by clicking here or on the picture Tribute image above. It chills me to think the video tribute could be extended to another 129 military souls.
3. The third and final memory I will have of Afghanistan came in the Fall of 2009 during one of my many drives to and from our nation’s capital.
One does not drive to and from Ottawa as much as I do and not encounter, at least once, a procession of repatriation stretching along the 401 and 416 Highway of Heroes.
On one trip, I was so moved by the sea of flag-waving people gathering on every overpass between Toronto and Trenton, I couldn’t help but take the next exit, park on the shoulder, and climb the embankment to be among dozens of complete strangers, police, fire-fighters, and of course veterans waiting to pay a sign of respect when the procession passed that particular check-point.
I can’t explain it, but as the line of police escorts and black limousines approached I was overcome with emotion. I had a lump in my throat that made it almost impossible to breathe. Tears were streaming down both sides of my face for a soldier, a person, I’d never met or heard of until the news of their passing while in action.
And so, there are some of my memories of the war in Afghanistan. Yes, there are numerous other significant events but for me, personally, those are three of the standouts.
To the 158 fallen soldiers, their friends and families, you are not forgotten.
To Corporal Steve Bolduc and Sonia Cormier, wherever you are, I wish you the best.