War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

home

just home from my 10 day road trip of readings, meetings etc. in Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal. the news from Kabul hasn’t really sunk in, though a fellow war artist who was an infantryman in the 90’s under the Col. contacted me and told me how much he admired Col. Parker. “affable… easy going…unexpected or perhaps, exceptional” is what war artist/former rifleman said.

and this is the deal. those little statements in the paper about the fallen. they’re not bullshit. I’ve known 6 of these people who we’ve lost. not intimately, but I’ve watched them under stress, fatigue, and at ease. and I’ve read those mini-personality sketches/press releases/official CF statements and from my very distant witnessing of them (because of course I’ve been seeing the soldiers only now and then, now and then over 18 + months, though mostly I’ve been with Delta Coy.), I find the write-ups credible.

Pte. McKay’s repatriation was/is tough. now that I’m home I’m remembering more and more of him. I’m seeing him in my memory. I’m searching for photos of him. hoping I took some. I was respectful not to shove cameras in their faces. always asked first. I’m thinking the last time I saw him was in Wainwrightistan and he was helping in the supply tent because the Transport Sgt. had been hit by rocket attack and 9 lined out for several days to “KAF”. I’m remembering him setting up my cot in the supply tent. I brought some really gucci giant chocolate chip cookies that someone baked for me to take on Ex. I shared them with the young ones because they tasted like home. I gave him a few of them.

the cookies were the size of a small desert plate and filled with every goodness known to man (and it was a kind man who baked them for me. someone I met in passing and who delivered them to me at a coffee shop on a Sunday morning as I headed out for WWx). I know I did sentry with Mickey. I loved doing sentry because basically all you could do is stand and watch and yack.

last Sunday, before they brought him home on the tarmac and I was brought to his mother and allowed to offer my condolences, I told his mother that I remembered him, she thanked me for remembering him.

and memory is what we next-of-kin hang on to for fear of losing it all.

our family knows this depth of grief very well having lost our own 26 year old and 31 year old. ours was not a quick sharp shock, it was a long, horrible, sickening realization that two of our beloved young ones were gone, disappeared, lost, at sea, dead. we still look for them on streets, in pubs, we still watch the horizon though our intellect tells us that it’s futile.

and we all feel so damned inadequate at these times. I’m going to search and search for photos. I’m certain I got one or two of him sitting down at the desk. keeping watch for the Angel of the FOBs.

today is Pte. Kevin McKay’s funeral. the time for tears.

******

but where there are soldiers, almost always there is some laughter. it’s the grease that keeps the wheel moving. I’ve been lucky to have OMIK for a few months.

but OMIK and his daily haiku have gone AWOL (from me, not the army). and I’m thinking he’s finally home after being delayed by iceland volcano shenanigans. I’m thinking his liver might hurt a little bit right about now.

a nice surprise from OMIK though. yesterday I received a copy of the Shannameh The Epic of the Kings, by Ferdowsi. I asked OMIK if he could locate me a copy and send it to me and he did. apparently the bookseller at KAF liked OMIK enough to throw in a book of Afghan poetry as well. nice one OMIK. and thanks. thanks too for the Pogs. the little cardboard disks with propaganda pics stamped all over them. Pogs are used in KAF for coinage rather than metal coins. OMIK sent an impressive collection to me. “I never noticed they had different pics. on each one,” OMIK wrote, “weird”. that was the first thing I noticed about them. I think some of the Pogs originate in Iraq. stars and stripey things. and union jacky things. rah rah images.

and I’m thinking OMIK, now that he’s home, he’s probably wondering if it all was just a long, weird Ground Hog Day dream. 12 hrs in a sea can doing paperwork, 12 hrs sleeping in a seacan. broken by Ground Hog Day trips to the messes, strolls around the Boardwalk, HLTA. emails, telephone calls home. the 14 km PT march around KAF with all his kit on, choking on shitdust. adding up his PT points (or whatever the hell they’re called, those little checked off boxes of physical fitness the CF pers. need to get in order to be good to go… even KAFFites a.k.a. WOGS in rifle coys parlance). and speaking of WOGS, they actually DO carry at least one BFG and poss. a pistol in case KAF is breached. in case of mass. cas. and they might have to fight or be flown outside the wire on a moment’s notice etc., so technically the term WOG isn’t quite correct.

but I digress.

so OMIK is a reservist and now will immediately return to his unit at his local armory and that must be kind of weird after being with the reg. force for at least 1 1/2 years unless he has others who went with him.

suddenly, at the ripe old age of 23, OMIK is a Vet. he invited me to come to his home town and have a drink with an OLD VET.

in Montreal I stayed with a soldier’s mother who has befriended me. soldier’s entire family has befriended me. I visited soldier in A’stan and reported home to his family. they are amazing. they picked me up at the airport, father drove me to Ottawa, then father drove me to Kingston. the whole family waved me goodbye at the airport. they believe in what I’m doing. more importantly, real friendship has come of all of this as we’ve supported each other through this long winter.
soldier is on the last chalk. his family is still holding their breath because he’s still not out. their tightrope wire is strung to the point of beyond tight.

all along the way, this extremely challenging year in my personal life, there have been people there to pick me up when I fall. many friends have stepped up. many have been army. it’s their second nature I think.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled home. It was posted here on May 21, 2010.

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