Canadian Afghanistan Veteran on Afghan mission “I’m proud”

Canadians at Kandahar Airport

Canadians at Kandahar Airport

Canada finished its mission in Afghanistan on March 12th and the last soldiers in the troubled country returned on Friday March 21. We often hear of the bloodshed in the country, but there were a multitude of projects Canadians completed aside from the fighting that has made the headlines.

When the last C17 arrived with the last Canadian troops Phil Palmer was out for a walk with his dog. To say that he was overwhelmed with emotion would be an understatement.

The letter below from a Canadian soldier, who has had several tours in Afghanistan, is a reflection of how he felt and describes his emotions wenn he saw the C-17 that brought back the last Canadian troops from Afghanistan. Is well worth reading.

It highlights the pride he felt at that moment and the memories of all the good Canadian troops did in Afghanistan, aside from bullets and bombs. The letter can make you choke up. Canadians should all be proud of the job our troops did Afghanistan. Below is a full reprint as published by CBC.

I heard your program last Sunday morning about Canada ending its mission in Afghanistan, and wanted to share with you a most profound moment I experienced not 15 minutes ago.

I had just finished a walk through the woods with my dog after dropping the kids off at school. It was a cold, quiet March morning. As I was crossing the street near my children’s school, I heard an approaching aircraft. This wasn’t unusual. I live under one of the main flight paths to the Ottawa International airport. When I looked up, though, my heart nearly stopped in my chest.

Immediately recognizable to me, and approaching in a low, slow and deliberate manner in the clear, bright sky, was a C-17 cargo plane, escorted by two CF-18 Hornets. I was gobsmacked to realize that flying overhead – and very close to me – was the last flight of Canadian soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. I had heard about their imminent arrival that morning on the news, and had hoped to see the aircraft fly by. But nothing like this.

As I stood there staring, a truck pulled up to the intersection. I looked over and pointed up. The roar of the aircraft engines was hard to ignore, and the trucker got out to see what I was gesturing at. As we both stood there watching, I was nearly overcome by emotion. I waved, instinctively, in silent tribute. After the aircraft had passed by, the man turned to me and said, “Thanks for pointing, I would have missed it.”

“No problem,” I said. “They were the last of our soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

And then: “I was there myself, twice.”

He nodded, climbed back in his truck, and went on his way. The dog and I continued home. I choked back the tears.

The moment was profound because of the memories it stirred in me. Because it made me think hard about Canada. And because I’d blurted out to a complete stranger that I was even there. I have served multiple tours overseas, including in Somalia, Bosnia and twice in Afghanistan.

To say Afghanistan changed my life would be an understatement. My wife and I are both soldiers, and in a less than a 10-year period, we spent probably close to three years apart while on different tours — on the ground in Afghanistan or in operations related to 9/11.

That service has left us both physically and emotionally scarred, and we have dealt with issues related to operational stress.

Despite those setbacks, however, we are committed to nursing our relationship, minds and bodies back to health for ourselves and our children. We don’t want to add to the casualty count of this war.

I lost several friends in Afghanistan. Many others were blown up by IEDs, shot, maimed, emotionally wounded and some ended their own lives after they returned home. I physically left Afghanistan in October 2008, but some part of me remains there.

About the Author

Karl Gotthardt - Politisite Managing Editor Maj. Gotthardt is a Retired Military Officer with 35 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. He spent most of his time in the Military in Infantry Battalions. Karl took part in training for Afghanistan as an Operator Analyst with the Canadian Maneouvre Training Centre. Karl is a qualified military parachutist and military free fall parachutist. He earned his U.S. Master Jump Wings in Fort Benning, Georgia. Karl enjoys working with horses for the last 24 year. He owns six. He has experience in breeding, training and of course riding.Karl was born in Germany and is fluent in both English and German and he speaks enough French to "get in trouble". Karl has written or writes at NowPublic, All Voices, Tek Journalism and many others.

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