War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Open Letter to Romeo Daillaire on Announcing His Retirement


I met you in 2008 before I began my own journey into a different kind of heart of darkness – dark, though nothing, nothing, compared to yours, nor restricted to a theatre of war. We met when you came to speak of saving children from becoming soldiers. What a merciless, beating, task for you. After hearing your story I marvelled that every day you were able to get up, tie your shoelaces, and face those images of children killing each other, or being killed, and I just don’t know how you did it. Your ruck of memory, sensorial, so heavy. You said you had a lot of help – family, medical, your faith.

Thank you General for that day and for all your days. And say thank you to your wife Elisabeth. For returning to Rawanda to set up Montessori preschools. Montessori, an outcome of another war, such a beautiful, peaceable way to help children begin their lives. But she would know, being a Montessori teacher herself. How lovely.

Thank you too for telling us about your PTSD and for showing us your humanity. There is only strength in this. All I can hope for you is to find some balance in it. I know you wrote your narrative, but maybe you could write the poetry it calls out to be had.

Thank you so much for encouraging people to call for help. When I met you I also met one of OSSIS’s very best, Phil Quenelle, who has been a guardian angel to thousands of veterans and also to me… he simply won’t let us fall through the cracks.

And thank you for telling me to look deeply into the eyes of all the thousands I would meet along the way. You said to me that I could learn a lot from this. I did. Every time I was with the army I tried to serve food to them alongside the cooks. It gave me a chance to see the soldiers, really see them.

I wrote this poem which you can listen to, General (ret’d) Romeo Daillaire because I was struck by your tie with its bright rainbows, and how it contrasted with your stories and images of children killing and being killed, and how your eyes were so weary and grey, and because I will never forget you telling us that in Rawanda, bullets were too expensive to use on children, and the machete was the weapon of choice.

Thank you Gen. Daillaire, may the grey ghosts become sweet angels for you. And remember,

you are not alone. We are here.



About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Open Letter to Romeo Daillaire on Announcing His Retirement. It was posted here on May 29, 2014.


Complete diary archive