Monday, September 24, 2007

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a campaign being raised in Canada to rally support for the role Canadian Armed Forces are playing in Afghanistan. Rick Hillier—the defacto Minister of Defense at this point, it seems—was on TV the other day applauding what out soldiers are doing there and implying that those of us who are not fully supportive of their efforts are either willfully or circumstantially ignorant.

I was just now reading an article in Prairies North, Fall, 2007 magazine called “Saskatchewan in Uniform,” by Pamela Vallevand. With quotes, narrative and photos, the article introduces the reader to five Saskatchewan people who have chosen to enlist, either in the reserves or in the regular forces. Assuming that the quotes are accurate, I put together a list of them having to do with motivation for their participation in the military:

1. “A lot of it is the camaraderie—you don’t find that so much in civilian life—and the variety of experiences.”

2. “The challenge is another thing that keeps me going. To put myself forward: constant growth.”

3. “There’s a bond you make with the troops when you start with the junior ranks.”

4. “When I signed up, I was young—just out of school—and I planned to stay in for only three years. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the military and serving my country. Now, I can take all of the experiences I’ve had and what I’ve learned over my career and mentor and train the reservists.”

5. “Support your troops. It is easier to fight the enemy when you don’t feel you have a fight gong on at home, too.”

6. “I walked in blind. Now I believe in the importance of the Reserves and I like the opportunities it affords. I can put myself through school and travel [one of his favourite pastimes]. The bonds you develop with the people you work with—going through the things we go through—you can’t find that in any other work.”

7. “It was a good opportunity to see another country, serve my country, and make money to purchase a farm.”

8. “There’s an element of patriotism, definitely, but it’s like a disease you can’t get rid of.”

9. “I like turning heads. Being the only woman, people are like, ‘Wow, that was a girl! And she has a rifle!’ I’m not a feminist, but I liked that feeling of empowerment.”

I don’t know how often I’ve heard the comment recently that the men and women serving in our military in Afghanistan are “the cream of the crop” among our citizenry. It’s time you people who have given your lives to health care, education, farming in difficult times, upholding justice, driving food, goods and people from place to place, etc. recognized that you are second class; the real Canadians wear uniforms and carry guns and fight for their country.

Reread the list of quotes: the important elements in military service mentioned here are self-service, camaraderie, personal empowerment. Soldiering is less about serving people and country than it is about reaching personal goals, apparently. For some, it appears to be a dangerous sport on which they get high. For the majority, references to service are made almost in passing.

One of the soldiers was reported to be an active member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance church; he made no mention of his duty to his God in his comments. Maybe he just wasn’t asked. I would have liked to hear him on that subject.

I found quote 5 ironic. We who don’t support a combat role for Canada in Afghanistan for whatever reasons are urged to “support the troops” so that it will be easier for them to carry out a combat role for Canada in Afghanistan. I remind myself that the military’s strength lies in strategy, not in logic.

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