Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why We Fight

Journalist Doug Schmidt has been embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan for the past six weeks for The Windsor Star. He's done an excellent job and I congratulate him for putting himself in harms way to help us get to know our Soldiers. His final post from Afghanistan is particularly powerful.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Maureen Eykelenboom's son was a medic with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan who saw things most Canadians couldn't fathom let alone would ever come close to having to experience. Andrew, known to his friends as Boomer, once plugged the severed legs of an interpreter, hit by a rocket from bleeding out, thus saving his life. He and a fellow soldier did this while a battle raged on around them. Another time, the corporal scooped together into a body bag the pieces of a blown-apart comrade.

Boomer, 23, was packing his bags and getting ready for vacation when he volunteered on one last convoy to the volatile border town of Spin Boldak. His armoured G-Wagon was spotted and targeted by a suicide bomber, and Boomer, like dozens of other Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan since 2002, was himself blasted to death on August 11, 2006.

His mother, sporting the shiny Silver Cross on her lapel that next-of-kin get when their children, husbands or wives die while serving their country, made an emotional trip back to Kandahar for Canada Day, when she addressed Canadian soldiers on the current Roto, telling the mostly young volunteers that they don't have to die to become heroes, but that they are heroes just by willing to sacrifice themselves in the service of others. It's a message she and others here wonder whether others back home really understand.

Read the rest, it's well worth it:

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