siglinde99: (Diane Fancy)
Every year, I remember friends who died trying to make the world a better place. I lost a friend in Afghanistan, a colleague in Kosovo, and and one of each in Haiti. I also remember someone who I didn't know personally, but who I admire (the first Canadian woman killed in combat; I happened to be working on the Afghanistan file when she was killed, and her death touched me deeply). They represent the full range of service: a diplomat, a corrections official (because peace without justice and respect for human rights won't last); a police officer and an international development worker, as well as an infantry officer.

My own dad served in the military for 33 years and worked as a civilian for another 15 years. My mom was also in the military, as a nurse. In their hearts though, they were both hippies.

Today I am remembering a new group - my own extended family. I knew that my great-grandfather had served in WWI. More recently, I learned that he also served in WWII and continued in various roles (some of the honorary) long past normal retirement. In fact, he was the longest-serving member of the Canadian forces. I didn't know that my great-uncles also served. All four were in WWII. A cousin told me last week that there was a newspaper article at the time celebrating their service and noting that theirs was one of the few families with soldiers that didn't lose someone.

My great-uncles Leslie, Fred and Arnold are in the back row. Great-uncle Len was already serving overseas. My great-grandma and great-grandfather are in the front row. My grandmother (Dad's mom) would have already married and been raising her own family by the time this was taken.

On the other side of my extended family, I remember my cousin Ken, who I first met while he was on leave from serving in the Golan Heights, and his son Kyle, who is now on posting in Poland.
siglinde99: (Default)
I'm looking forward to going to the war memorial this year. I find that it is becoming increasingly important to me. When I was a kid, it just seemed so ordinary, though I always participated - as a brownie, guide, or member of the school band. As the memories fade, and my own son is now of fighting age, I appreciate what is being lost with the passing of a generation, and 70 years of relative peace. My great grandfather served in WW1, and I have a vague recollection of some sort of medallion, but I am unclear about whether he died, was wounded, or what. I think I'll ask my dad this weekend.

My dad was in the military for 33 years, and the closest he ever got to combat was issuing uniforms to troops heading to Cyprus with the first peacekeeping operations in 1974. My cousin Ken did one or two stints in the Golan in the 1980's. Both he and my dad were in Germany in the 1980s, as the Cold War was starting to wind down. I still remember the instructions we all had to be on the lookout for Soviet and East European diplomatic plates, so we could report the possible spies to the military police. Ken's son is now serving, but so far he is safely in Edmonton.

Today, it seems more likely that non-soldiers are targets. My friend Glyn was the first person killed by enemy action in Afghanistan (ie not through friendly fire or an accident). He was a diplomat. My friend Doug was killed in the Haiti earthquake - hewas there on his 3rd peacekeeping mission, this time as head of all the UN police. Acquaintances Louis and Robert were held captive by Al Qaida in the Maghreb for four months, while trying to negotiate a peace deal in Niger. I didn't know the young Canadian diplomat who lost both her legs in the same bombing that killed the Canadian journalist; she was in her mid-twenties, and - judging by her name - may have broken all kinds of cultural stereotypes to do her work. She must have been very bright, as few make it into the foreign service much before the age of 30, and she was already serving abroad (usually something that happens only after at least two years at headquarters).
I'll also be thinking about Captain Nicola Goddard, the first Canadian woman soldier killed in combat. She was the daughter of peace activists, and apparently was a lovely person. I'm proud of her for chosing a path she believed in.

Lots of soldiers have put themselves in harm's way for their country, but this weekend, I will be taking a moment to remember the civilians and non-combattants who made sacrifices. And as I prepare to visit Sierra Leone in January, I'll be thinking about the civilians who get caught up and mutilated, raped, tortured and killed. They are the reason we fight today. We are blessed in Canada, because those things are not government opposition tactics here.


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December 2016

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