War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

more soldiers words (from Padre Scott)

this is a public letter sent to me from my friend Padre S. the Padres are respected by all soldiers no matter what religion they belong to or if of any religion at all. many soldiers have never been inside a place of worship until one of their fellow soldiers either gets married or is buried. yet soldiers value Padres very much and see them as sounding boards, advisors, a connection to home, a place where they can go and talk about things and know that their problems will be kept in confidence. in the words of one Padre, “it’s our job to bring them home again after they go to war.” currently there are Christian, Jewish, Muslim padres in the CF. I think you’ll find this letter interesting

“I am the resurrection and the life…” John 11:25

Padre S. – 03 November 2009 – somewhere in Afghanistan

Today I am living in a large modular tent with about ten other soldiers – I will be here for a good part of this week. For the last three weeks I have been doing ministry both at Kandahar Airfield and beyond the wire in various locations in and around Kandahar City. The nature of the work of the Operational Mentoring Liaison Team (OMLT) and the Military Police Company (MP Coy) means they are out teaching, guiding and helping members of the Afghan National Army and Police in many different locations. To be with my assigned units and carry out a ministry of presence, pastoral care and worship, I need to be where they are.

The visits to various locations have allowed me to see a good deal of the countryside from ground level and from the air. In the Panjawi and Zhari districts three geographical features all come together to provide a stunning vista. The first is desert, sand, and dust. The one thing you can never get away from in Afghanistan is dust. It is as fine as flour and sometimes in certain spots it comes up well over the toe of your boot. Dust is everywhere and it gets into everything. Washing dust off vehicles, windows and buildings can be a problem because of the lack of water in many locations – so everything is dusty. The second feature is the gars, or mountains. The mountains are rugged, stark and almost ominous. They can be startling when you come upon them because some seem to rise out of nowhere. On the east side of the Argandhab River they stand as lone sentinels presiding over the valley to the west. The third feature is the lush green valley that runs along either side of the Argandhab River. The river is small but it feeds a system of ancient irrigation canals that provide farm families with a way of life. It is a beautiful place when you see it from the heights of a gar or from the air but when you get down onto the roads and into wadis, or grape fields you learn how dangerous it can be.

Canadians and others, both military and civilian, are doing much good work here. Until yesterday leaders in different organizations were getting ready for the Presidential vote that was to take place in the coming week. When Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew his candidacy, the second vote was cancelled, and President Karzai was declared the winner. Just the fact that so many people voted in August election and terrorist attacks did not interrupt the election was a victory for security forces here. The insurgents have become more and more desperate because they have less and less influence over the population. Their tactics now target the population itself, they are using violence against villagers and they recruit youth and children to inflict violence through improvised explosive devises (IEDs). Just this past week, as Canadians and Americans were being killed by homemade land mines, children were also injured when they stepped on landmines the insurgents plant in villages. The insurgents are willing to harass, bully and kill innocent civilians if it furthers their purposes.

The work on the local school, (I spoke of in the last newsletter) just outside of one of the forward operating bases continues. Windows are being ordered to replace the ones that were blown out by an IED in August during the last presidential election. There are many other projects being supported in local communities such as; the building of roads, further clearing of irrigation ditches to continue to support agriculture, infrastructure projects in Kandahar City, as well as a large irrigation dam project on the Argandhab River. These projects, and some already completed move ahead with little fanfare, and no reporting in the media at home. Our work here, while much of it is military, the growing priority involves the building of infrastructure and human capacity.

As I write from a tent, behind concrete bunker walls somewhere in the Argandhab Valley I want you to have a better sense of why we are here. Many Canadians ask why – why are we spending so much money, and sacrificing Canadian lives for Afghanistan and it’s people? And my response is why not – why not Afghanistan? Before 2001 it was the third poorest nation in the world (and it is still very poor). It has been torn by war for twenty-five years; it had been used as a pawn in a cold war struggle between the USSR and the USA and then targeted and exploited by Islamic extremists. Why would we, as Canadians who have so much not use some of our resources and risk Canadian lives to help this country that has been abused? Are Canadian lives and Canadian wealth and ingenuity to important to risk on this kind of project?

I am asking these rhetorical questions because many of us here, and throughout the Canadian Task Force are grieving and we are conscious that Remembrance Day is coming. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians died in two world wars for European peace, security and wealth, and those sacrifices are lifted up as noble because they helped to defeat fascism and tyranny. The ideology and fanaticism that drives the insurgents here is no less dangerous than fascism.

Today we are grieving the deaths of Lt. Justin Boyes and Sapper Steven Marshall. From all I have been told by those who knew him well, Steven Marshall was a fine young man. I met him last spring when one of his own mates committed suicide while we were on exercise in Suffield, Alberta. Justin Boyes was a young man I had served with in the North Saskatchewan Regiment. I had counseled him, socialized with him, tried to support his family when he was deployed overseas twice before, I was joyful when he married [his wife] and celebrated when his son James was born. Justin was a fine young man in every sense of the word. He was a leader, he was principled, mature, and he was a good warrior, a loving Dad and a cherished husband, son and brother. At the age of 26 he had accomplished much in his short life. He was everything Canadians and our Army wants our young leaders and officers to be. I know that to be true, it is not just rhetoric. The loss of Justin has hit those of us who knew him hard, especially his friends and comrades from the NSaskR.

This past Sunday, November 01, was All Saints Day. This is some of what I reflected on. In the Protestant tradition we believe all faithful baptized believers are part of the communion of saints. Justin was a baptized believer, a saint in whose life we see the grace and blessing of God working itself out in mundane and daily tasks. Signs of the promised resurrection were there in Justin’s love for James his son, his wife, his family and friends. Glimpses of the promise of eternity could be seen in his commitment to live for peace, justice and the well-being of creation in the way he sacrificed himself in service to his nation and Afghanistan. No one has greater love than laying one’s life down for the sake of a friend. Jason and Steven Marshall have inherited the gift of eternal life promised by Christ. They have shown us what it means to live for more than ourselves.

(My sermon for All Saints Day will be posted on St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church website at www.saintpaulspa.org if you want to read more).

I have attached his [wife’s] public statement, because many of us here are grateful for what she wrote. May God’s grace, peace and strength surround you and keep you.

Padre

STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF LIEUTENANT JUSTIN GARRETT BOYES

Lt Justin Garrett Boyes, my husband, was a selfless, courageous man who loved his career in the Army. Justin was a respected, intelligent leader, a genuine friend, an unconditionally loving devoted husband, and most of all, the very best daddy. He gave 100% in every decision he made. Before he left I told him he was a gallant warrior in the 21st century because whether it was leading a combat operation, doing house renos or changing a ‘poopy’ diaper, he knew what to do.

Our tall, dark and handsome daddy was wise beyond his years. He was a true gentleman, steadfast, sensitive, caring and the very best listener a girl could ever want. He was my confidante; my other half. Our son is lucky to have had a tender, loving daddy to read, cuddle, watch fireworks on YouTube with and go for special coffees out to Tim Hortons. We will be strong for our daddy and continue his legacy of values and beliefs because we must continue in our lives without him. We are luckier than most to have had each other; we were very happy.

Justin and I believe in the mission in Afghanistan. One of the things that frustrated him was the lack of support from the Canadian citizens he lived to protect. He said recently, “we’re not losing this war, but if we do, it’s because we lost it at home first.” Please support our boys. They are making progress.

Justin you are irreplaceable in our lives. Solid as a rock, beautiful as a marble statue and warm and gentle as the sunshine on our cheeks, you are our daddy and best friend.

Then let amorous kisses dwell
On our lips, begin to tell
A thousand and a hundred score
A hundred and a thousand more

Sincerely,

The Family of Justin Boyes


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled more soldiers words (from Padre Scott). It was posted here on November 03, 2009.

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