War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


the girl and I are back. brown, well-exercised from swimming in the salt water, well-fed from the resort’s astonishingly excessive buffets and restaurants, our eyes and ears well-nourished from all the beauty of ocean and palm trees and white sand. the sheer aesthetic beauty of a hotel designed to please the eye, rest the body, the mind. classic Mayan design. and a day to feed our love of the world, its ancient and present cultures. a day to Chichen Itza to see the Mayan pyramid and ruins. the best part of the day for the girl, swimming in an underground cave (think LAV – crowded, dark, kind of spooky), for me, a quick stop in a colonial town. Spain’s long reach into the jungle.

and at the resort one morning, I see two young guys. unmistakable. they sit so tall at their breakfast table. clean. really clean. muscular, tanned, where most other guests at the resort are paunchy and white and sunburned.

“infantry?” I ask.

astonished they say yes. ask how I know. I laugh. “I can spot an infantryman a mile away. and you look like you’ve just come back.” and they had. they were R22eR’s. one a Captain (yup, I could see that too), the other a Cpl.

I watched them over the week. on a different kind of patrol. one covered his arcs left, the other right as they hit the beach. I wished them luck at this family-oriented resort. it was going to be a tough go for the boys. last time I saw them was New Year’s Eve. they were heading to a big party in the next town. “bonne chance” I said as my girl and I headed for another piece of lobster. and I really DO hope they met some chicas and had a really good time. they earned it.

the resort was blessedly free of internet access except if one wanted to sit in the lobby and jack the concierge’s. so I didn’t write much. now I’m home, I’m receiving all kinds of letters from the soldiers over there in A’stan, some family members, and readers.

the site has had over 41,000 hits, but I had no idea that people actually look to it for a take on the war. I had no idea that it actively brought comfort to the ones over there. that they look to me and miss my words when I’m absent.

and while away, the death of Lt. Nuttall. harsh. really hard. then the deaths of the journalist, and the four. and to be honest, I’m speechless on the latter deaths. it’s not hard to imagine that that could easily have been me. I was scheduled to go there to hang with the PRT, CIMIC, but stuff happened and it didn’t happen and I remained confined to KAF. thank you guardian angel.

and the loss of Chidley, Miok, Taylor, McCormack. I certainly was in their presence this past year at some point. more than once. I spent 48 hours with their brothers at “Spin” in May. yesterday, when I couraged up to read about them, looked at the pictures, I realized I knew several of the pallbearers. have never seen looks like that on their faces. faces I’ve often seen laughing. and I still can’t bring words.

recently someone asked how long I’ll write. I was one of the war artists chosen for the 2008-2009 period. soon there will be 5 new war artists. but somehow I think that once one is a war artist, one will always be one, official or not. I know what my next project is going to be and it will have nothing to do with war. but I am committed to write until Task-Force 3-09 is home. I want to see them a few months after they are back, observe the changes. then I’ll have watched them from start to finish and I’ll sign off.

meanwhile, over there, soldiers, keep writing me. it helps to know that my words are helping you. as I said in the CBC interview this week, “I’d go back in a heartbeat” if I could. but next best thing, I’ll keep the home fires. I’ll try and catch the words.


1 Comment (Closed)

Nancy Wilson

Quite a voyage, Suzanne. Full circle? Or, with new eye, new perspective, because that’s what you’ve given to your readers.
Please continue to “catch the words”!

Jan 10 2010 · 15:16

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled back. It was posted here on January 10, 2010.


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