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Peacekeeper or Soldier

In a recent conversation with one of my extended family members I was informed of her belief and what she claimed was the Canadian public’s view of the Canadian Forces (CF) and the soldiers therein. She couldn’t understand that I, as a Canadian soldier, wanted to go to Afghanistan. I told her that every soldier, no matter who he is, has the urge, though it may not be blatantly obvious, to test the skills that he has been taught. I also informed her that there are incentives and complete care and control systems set in place to make sure that I returned safely from my tour of duty, and that my family was amply cared for both physically and emotionally.

Then she said something that surprised me. She said, “but there is a war going on over there, you’re a peacekeeper.” I was speechless. Well, speechless for a moment. I was aghast. There are two ways to take this statement as my loving wife pointed out afterward. As it is written here it could be taken as a positive statement — Canadian soldiers invented, perfected and led the way in peacekeeping the world over. This undisputed fact has become well known to the public of our great nation and that has given great pride to all Canadian soldiers. However, the way she said it carried a different connotation, as if it wasn’t a place for Canadians to be, or isn’t something we are trained or qualified to do.

With immense energy, I quickly stated my personal viewpoint. Although I do not have much time serving my country in uniform (three years when written), I am a firm believer that at any given moment Canadian soldiers are one of the world’s most war-ready units of fighting men and women. Should the figurative “balloon go up” and Canada be placed in a situation where it needed to defend its borders in a conventional or even terrorist driven attack, we are ready and willing to “go to work.”

No one wants this to happen. Even the worst war mongers in our great country are pacifists compared to some of those to our south. However, all people, both serving and civilian, must understand the need to be prepared for all possible variables.

As an example, a house builder will learn many skills the main of which is, of course, the construction of the house itself, but he will also learn how to build a deck and other things. He may become extremely skilled at building decks but he is not a deck builder. Likewise a soldier may be an extremely skilled peacekeeper, he may even do many peacekeeping missions for a long time but in the end he is a soldier, a fighter, a warrior.

A politician in Canada never wants to bring his soldiers home in body bags, and no Canadian citizen or service member wants that either. The fact of the matter is, morbid as it may seem, soldiers will die. It will happen, it is inevitable. And although all people should join together to help and show compassion for the loved ones of the soldier who loses his life, don’t feel bad for the soldier himself or worse still state that he should not have been “sent” where he was, or fighting where he was. He volunteered for service because he wanted to, he chose to go on the mission because he wanted to, and, whether it was peacekeeping or war, he died doing what he loved, as he would have wanted to.

Simon Bowser – Oromocto, New Brunswick