Thanking our military
As we enjoy a beautiful, sunny, Toronto winter weekend, there are a few thousand Canadian soldiers in Afganistan right now who are probably not asking themselves how many of us are thinking about them. But they should be.
You might be visiting a grandparent, shovelling the walk, nipping into Starbucks or getting ready to take your kids to the Backyardigans show at the Hummingbird Centre.
Its not like that in Kandahar. There is too much mud and bad food and plinking of 5.56mm rounds from a C-7 to worry about Pablo’s latest adventure. But the mission in Kandahar is all about our ability to enjoy ourselves, free of fear. Perhaps our Afgan Sappers are succeeding too well at it, as the recent debate on Parliament Hill implied.
The Canadian military’s presence in Afganistan is about September 11th. And Gulf I, Kosovo, Korea, WWII, WWI, the Boer War, and or and on. Since our Nation’s founding, Canadian soldiers have been dispatched around the world so that we might enjoy the many freedoms that we do. Fight them “there” or fight them “here” was a familiar, and accurate, refrain.
September 11th might cross through your mind as you pass through security at a domestic airport. To think box cutters, and a will, changed thousands of lives for ever. The people and their familes that suffered on September 11th. The military members and their families that have been killed or wounded in Afganistan or Iraq in the years that followed.
Canadians may wash their hands of Iraq; it is a complicated story and not suited to this forum. But you need to think about Kandahar and September 11th in the same context. For the Taliban gave many of the September 11th planners a safe home in Afganistan, which led to the loss of Canadians such as David Barkway, age 34.
I have no doubt that each and every Canadian soldier knows exactly why they are in Afganistan. The connection to protecting Canada is very real, and the fact that they are fighting rather than rebuilding water filtration plants (the reconstruction work the NDP favour) is unlikely to be a source of anger for them. CFB Gagetown conducts no more courses on civil reconstruction than a New Brunswick highschool might.
Why is it so hard for Canadians to accept that Canada has an incredibly proud military history? As many a politician have said: Canada is not a neutral nation. The Afgan mission is the latest in a 125+ year history.
Had 19 determined men with box cutters not killed more than 3,000 people from some 70 nations on September 11th, our troops wouldn’t be needed in Kandarhar. And the intense action that Canadians are seeing in Afganistan may be the luck of a bad draw on our part – as a dithering Canadian government commited troops to NATO’s mission after all of the safe regions had been snapped up. But someone had to fight, and just as with Vimy and the Somme and Normandy, it is the Canadian military.
Let’s thank them as we luxuriate in the safety they provide.