Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another Entry from a Soldiers Journal

Another entry from "A Soldiers Journal" by Iain Campbell:

I am going to preface this missive with a warning, assuming that the reader is not jaded beyond all recognition. I am going to offend some of you, challenge some, or perhaps generate complete indifference in others. I am also going to make yet another clear and unequivocal statement: while I do wish to convey my impressions and ruminations, I absolutely do not care in which way I offend your sensibilities. This may explain that my promotion within the military, if some read this, may require an act of God, or divine intervention, if you will. So be it. I will not violate operational security, for what is related is public knowledge. But to all those who wish to bring me into line for some imagined offense, to you I say: either suck it up, and get a real life, or put your money where your mouth is, and charge me. I will also refer to my brothers and sisters in the fraternity of arms as "We." Where I wish to express my own opinion (on events related) I will use the word...you guessed it. Thank you. I will try something new here, and relate the events of the last few days in reverse order, and begin with where my morning started, just an hour ago. I will attempt reverse psychology and deal with the post event analysis prior to the event mentioned. I emerged from my tent this morning, temporarily blinded by sunshine, to the sound of two helicopters banking on final to Kandahar Air Field. They are Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawks, and we both love and dread the sight of them. People who would rather waste Canadian taxpayers money on Carbon Credits to assist the People's Republic of China offset its appalling disregard for the environment and human rights record, pay attention. We could use a few of these, and try to remember that we can vote also. The UH-60 Blackhawks are green mechanical angels of mercy, emblazoned with the distinctive and unapologetic Red Cross symbol. They are also on occasion harbingers of a cargo of death and suffering. Either way, we love and respect the American crewmen and crew women (insecure Canadian racists take note) who work in them, day in, and day out. It is their job. They do it for the same reason that some wish to be doctors or firefighters or kindergarten teachers. They want to save lives, to make a difference. We track them with our eyes and mentally bless them: those of us who pray for their mission success do so, but all nations gathered here, and scores of Afghans wounded by Islamist lunatics, appreciate their mission. Many Canadian soldiers have been recipients of their care. Yesterday, we witnessed the return of a sister to Canada whose time had ran out, for whom UH-60 Blackhawks, modern technology, expert aeromedical care, and the frantic efforts of her friends and comrades were insufficient. I prefaced her tragic mode of return to Canada by finding out about her, so that I could personalize my respects. I was on duty yesterday, and as such was not required to attend the repatriation ceremony, (although I would not miss attending for any reason.) I stole some time to find out more about Trooper Karine Blais. I found out all I needed to know on CBC, and then took the calculated risk of reading some of the comments made by the public upon her death. Of course it was a mistake....pencil-neck armchair experts pontificating from the comfort of their easy chairs about the virtues or ills of the Afghanistan mission did little more than clarify my rage over the event itself. I will therefore elect to include but two comments: and am thus exercising my right to purvey my opinion and exclude other opinions, opinions that I deem less relevant, informed, or even worthy of note at all. It is what subject matter experts in commentaries and blogs do. Petawawa female soldier writes: "People who leave messages for or against this war, I have something to tell you: this is not the time and place to write such comments." Another commentator which passes this litmus test of time and place is Paul from Saskatoon. "Soldiers hate.....absolutely hate being treated like either victims or felons. Please stop insulting them by bringing (your) politics into the debate." The remainder of my commentary shall be entirely free of political or social commentary, for what follows has nothing to do with opinion, yours or mine. Rather, it is the account of a precious young life cut brutally short by the actions of islamofacist supremacists who bear no good will to any resident of this war-torn land.Trooper Karine Blais, aged 21, was barely two weeks into her tour of duty, as a member of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22 Regiment (the famed "Van Doos") based at CFB Valcartier in Quebec. She died after her vehicle rolled over an IED in the Wali Kowt district, at around 5pm local, on Monday. Four of her comrades are seriously wounded, to the extent that they could not attend her repatriation ceremony. Terms flow easily from journalistic keyboards, as if her gender was even an issue for us. "2nd Canadian female to die in Afghanistan," "117th Canadian soldier." My personal number of repatriation parades, and none of this sentence is quoted in passing or in the abstract, is that for me, Karine is the ninth too many.As on previous occasions, we muster at the appointed time. Thousands of us, from nations across this planet show up displaying our best possible drill, dress, discipline, and deportment. We share a common bond that only a fool would question or give negative voice to on this night. The plaintive lament on the bagpipes makes an instrument the mode of communication; the sound of sadness and loss we dare not display or give voice to during the ceremony itself. For us, the best way of displaying respect is for thousands of officers and non-commissioned members alike to salute the fallen, regardless of rank or job description, because Karine, the professional soldier, gave 100% for her country. She did this knowing the risks, because she wanted for whatever reason, of her own volition, to make changes in her world through her chosen profession, and it is an honourable one. The LAV III pulls up, the casket is gently removed, and the pallbearers approach, flanked on all sides by troops saluting at attention. I truly regret my rudimentary understanding of French during the eulogy. I understand enough that she was an enthusiastic member of her team, with a quirky sense of humour. She was not averse to humour at her own expense, a vital precondition for military service. She was nicknamed "Kermit." I think of her photograph as the casket passes in front of me borne by six brothers and two sisters. She was but a few years older than my 17 year old daughter Sarah, with the same pretty, clear skin, vivid blue eyes, and brunette hair. Her "media portrait" is of a mischevious young woman with barely enough discipline to repress a smile, young, idealistic, and full of promise. I think of my Sarah and imagine the horror the Blais family is going through, and I have already enjoined the Padre's prayers with my own upon their behalf. I think of Mario Blais, mother Josee, and brother Billy. As much as it is possible for a complete stranger to the family to do, I feel their pain and regret.We are dismissed and dispersed, and I march off the ramp behind a military ambulance and weep with those that weep at home. Three of my comrades, parents of young daughters all, come up and embrace me as I say, "I'm a father too." There is no need for more words.....we know. Words fail at such times, for they are insufficient, and "a fool is known for his much speaking." And so here and now I will stop writing, and offer my sincere condolences to the Blais family, may God bless you. We will not forget her, or her sacrifice.Mes sympathies a toute sa famille.
Iain Campbell

1 comment:

Christina said...

Oh damn! I'm in tears again! I hope the earlier references are not that Ian is getting "feedback" from the brass on these missives.