It seems that this week the Canadian Forces are officially handing over the keys in Kandahar, moving to the new part of their mission. This morning CBC radio played clips from the beginning of this so-called war against terror. Clips from George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jean Chretien.
These voices brought me immediately back to 2001. I was living in Belleville, I was going to journalism school, I was 20 years old. The world came crashing down and things changed forever.
There were TVs lining the hallways of the media wing at Loyalist at you couldn’t escape the replays of the events of September 11. Even if you went outside and tried to forget for a while we were just down the road from CFB Trenton and every hour a fighter jet would circle overhead on its way to Toronto.
I remember sitting in my apartment and watching the bombs start to drop on Afghanistan.
Not too much later two of my student colleagues were dispatched to the base to talk to soldiers who were leaving that day for their first tour in Afghanistan, and when Jeff didn’t come back with Melanie I was sent to fetch him to get the pictures he was taking for our cover. I walked into the room – a huge open complex full of families saying goodbye – and I had to stop myself from bursting into tears. There was no escaping the emotion there.
A short while later I was on base again, this time watching four flag-draped coffins be returned to their families. Four men who had died by error while fighting for my country.
During my time in Belleville I also had the chance to visit something an operation in the direction of Picton – a group of Canadian forces living life as though they were already in Afghanistan. There were guardposts and exercises and it was nothing like I’d ever seen before.
Last month my half-brother went back to Afghanistan.
As whatever is happening in Afghanistan to change the mission, I hope that the lives of Afghan men and women have been made better, I hope that the sacrifices I’ve witnessed made a difference.
And thank you for doing what you believe in.