4 July 2021
Independence Day in the USA and the Taliban have taken Panjwai in Afghanistan.
What to say to those of you who worked so damn hard there, to the families of the fallen and to the physically and emotionally wounded. Perhaps there are not many words that will work well tonight, but your pain is real and authentic. Perhaps hugs and caring are really what is needed, and I send those freely and openly.
Maybe you were in Panjwai province itself, perhaps not. Maybe outside the wire, maybe not. There are huge differences and none at all. You went, you tried hard, and the place went back to the Taliban. My Dad would say, “shit, bugger, damn”, and that sums it up, I guess.
What Does This Mean?
Does this mean the mission failed, that your efforts were for naught? Having spent countless hours with those of you who served in Afghanistan, let me tell you clearly that no, you did not fail. Nor were your efforts for naught.
You built schools, cleared roads, fought battles. You showed the women and girls respect and showed them a different life. You helped “Thursday boys” whenever you could. You gave medical aide to locals. The list could go on and on. And so often the ‘good’ is in the tiny things, in the memories of those you chatted with, those you smiled at, and who smiled back. Every bit of energy you spent will be remembered by someone there. Small comfort for the horrors, for the nightmares, for the lost limbs, I know. But you were part of Canada doing its job, and you did it well, as Canadian forces always do, wherever you go, whatever the mission.
You also did what your country asked of you and it was bloody and awful far more than any civilian can ever know. Yet you did it and stood your ground. Too many places to name, too many people to name.
In the coming days, if this even makes the news in Canada, there will be opinions galore. That is what they are, opinions. Again, as my Dad would say “ Don’t let the bastards get you down” when asked to explain the meaning of the RCAF motto. He was RCAF. Never said much about WW2, except for spending long nights, having worked on planes who then flew from England to the war, hoping like hell they would all come home soon. I reference Dad because war is real and awful, then and now. I don’t pretend to really get it, but he did and each of you does.
You Know Your Truth
You and yours were there in Panjwai Afghanistan, you know your truth. Canada came home as a military force when we did, for reasons probably not all that clear then and now. Just as you went for reasons not all that clear.
So, you sit with the news, maybe swear, maybe cry, maybe wonder a lot. Call your buddies, listen to one another and be proud of your huge efforts.
Thank you and have comfort and hugs from me.