For those of you south of the border, this might come as news. Canada has had troops fighting in Afghanistan since April 2002. Remember Afghanistan? The first blow the US struck after 9-11? (Oh yeah, Afghanistan. The Taliban, and the guy with the furry peaked hat and beard, um, Karzoo? Right?)
When the US opened up the Shock and Awe taps in Iraq, most of the US forces went south to the Big Show, leaving NATO troops, including Canada, to pick up the slack. Since then, it hasn’t gone particularly well for our side. Despite best efforts, we’ve managed to get a lot of our folks killed in the same kind of grinding insurgent fight going on in Iraq.
There are some differences, in that Canada tends to win the hearts and minds by actually doing things for the locals and keeping the peace so the locals can get on with life. However, when various insurgent groups decided to fight, our folks know how to put rounds on target too. Just as true, our people bleed and die. Sixty-seven of them so far.
I was in the convenience store in the apartment building last week when I noticed a person standing next to me. He had a high and tight haircut, a deep tan and was wearing a blue sweatshirt listing the ops of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan. The jump pants and the heavy boots suggested some military service, but the giveaways were the huge shoulders, massive arms and very calm demeanor.
Every fighting soldier I’ve ever met exudes an aura of personal responsibility, confidence and honour in a perfect sphere that extends about three meters around the person.
I have a history of working with the military. 2 Circus, 8CH, 2 Commando, PPCLI and the Sherbrookes. There was even a few days spent in the company of the Watch and the Vandoos, as well as 427 Sqn. To a person, all good people. But then there is this war thing. I don’t care for the reasons Canada is in Afghanistan. Our commitment was a simple "Kiss Dubya’s Ass" decision and was made in an afternoon of deep, intellectual, moral and political consideration: "You comin? Sure, whatever. Can we hitch a lift?"
That doesn’t mean I don’t support our fighting folks. I have the utmost respect for them doing a difficult job, far away, without a lot of logistical, or physical support from home. There are very few jobs that start the description with "You can be killed in the normal performance of your daily duties."
Here’s the conundrum: I support our troops: All The Way. I don’t support the War.
So, I asked the large shouldered gentleman what I should do? His response was perfect. "You don’t have to support the war to support the troops. We’re fighting so you can have the luxury of a different opinion over here."
For that, I shook his hand, said thank you and asked him to pass on my thanks to the rest of his unit. He said that he would and knowing the kind of person who was shaking my hand, I’m fairly certain he will.
I can live with the conundrum now. We shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, but if we are there, then the soldiers on the ground need us to say thank you once in a while. They deserve to hear from us, who have the luxury of not agreeing with the war, at least recognizing the soldiers’ contribution.
To that, I can, wholeheartedly, unequivocally, without reservation, say Thank You.
If you want to say Thank You too, this link: http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/Community/Messageboard/addresses-2_e.asp will show you how.