Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘loss

Alive Days

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An inevitability of living and working on close quarters with a relatively small group of people is that conversations get deeper and more involved. On this particular trip it is worse in many cases because there are just three of us on the training team, staying in the same hotel, planning our meals around each other, and so on. We do get along well so it’s not complicated. But the conversations get very deep.

Yesterday afternoon, we sat at a small sausage stand on the Danube, on a patio feasting on little bratwursts and sauerkraut, and we got into discussion about a lot of things, including absent friends. One of my colleagues had told me some of his stories, but never in depth. He wears a black bracelet that has become somewhat common amongst those who’ve lost friends in war. His bears the name of friend who was killed in a rocket attack on a base in Iraq, right in front of the PX. My friend had been invited to come along to the shops – something that’s common enough – and declined. Had he gone, he too would likely have been killed.

Military folks have a term for these: Alive Days. The day that they managed to avoid a grim fate. I neither have nor want an Alive Day – but I find the emergence of them to be something rather awesome. They complement the more solemn idea of remembrance of absent friends by celebrating survival as well.

They are sad days. My colleague recounted the last discussion he had with his KIA friend – about photographs he had received of his kids and his wife’s poor camera work. It laid bare for us just how real it is what we do, during the surreal experience of being in Germany instead of Afghanistan.

Written by Nick

May 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

ANZAC Day

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Today, April 25th, is ANZAC Day. It’s the 97th Anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli, where allies landed against ferocious Turkish defence, and took massive casualties. There was a “sort of” Canadian connection, because the Newfoundland Regiment was involved in that campaign as well. For Australians and New Zealanders, the former having major presence on my camp, today is their equivalent of Remembrance Day, and so this morning we formed up to pay tribute to their fallen, but also to all those who went before us as we do on Remembrance Day.

Probably my favourite part of the whole thing is the tribute paid by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to those who fell after the war in 1934 – which if I remember right is actually inscribed on the ANZAC Monument:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and they are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

Lest we forget.

Written by Nick

April 25, 2012 at 1:16 am

The Day Job Comes To An End

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Yesterday was my last day of work in my civilian job, my leave of absence officially started. I spent the day cleaning up my office, getting some files organized, and saying a few goodbyes before I headed downtown to return my laptop, printer, and all that stuff. I walked out into a beautiful evening and what my father refers to as “gardening leave”, a few days off before I set off for Gagetown at some point this weekend, and the fun begins.

Today, though, I’m doing a video shoot for the company’s intranet that will be posted next week for Remembrance Day. Last year they did snippets on a bunch of employees with military connections and in the last few months they’ve started using video to feature different employees talking about all sorts of things relevant to the business, or our communities, or whatever. Kind of neat. Among other things they want me to talk about Remembrance Day and what it means to me. That’s an interesting question.

When I was growing up, it was about paying tribute to the fallen in wars long before my time, seeing older vets getting together to remember absent friends, and it was very vague. I understood why we did it, why it was important. I memorized In Flanders Fields even if I didn’t totally understand its message.

My first Remembrance Day in the uniform of Canada’s Army was in 2001. A new war was just beginning and it wasn’t clear what it meant. It was still a vague event, I went with fellow soldiers to tour the Legions and other service clubs, bought drinks for veterans and listened to their stories of WW2 and Korea.

By 2002 Canada had seen its first Afghan casualties and it suddenly had a different meaning. We actually were commemorating our generation. As each year went by, and more  names were added to the list of those fallen in the service of the country, we had more to remember. In 2006, for the first time, it was people I knew personally. By 2009, I was remembering and honouring a pretty close friend.

Each year, we gather at the cenotaph and pay homage to the fallen in broad, general terms. We stand in silence while Flowers of the Forest plays, we think of those lost, and when the parade is dismissed we head off to commiserate a bit over our absent friends. Each we honour in some unique way, each we feel the loss of anew, but we do this because it gives them an immortality that few will ever know.

Written by Nick

November 1, 2011 at 8:55 am