Saturday, May 29, 2010
EIGHT YEARS LATER
Lieutenant BOYCES Justin
Sapper MARSHALL Steven
Lieutenant NUTTALL Andrew
Sergeant TAYLOR Kirk
Sergeant MIOK George
Corporal MCCORMACK Zachery
Private CHIDLEY Garrett
Sergeant FAUGHT John
Corporal BAKER Joshua
Corporal FITZPATRICK Darren
Private TODD Tyler
Petty Office 2nd Class BLAKE Craig
Private MCKAY Kevin
Colonel PARKER Geoff
Trooper RUDD Larry
Those are the names of the courageous Canadian soldiers that will honored during the pouring of the fifteen cement bags that will be added to “CIMENT HILL” during the “Memorial” weekend of 28 – 31 May 29, 2010.
Let us not forget their valiant devotion.
I’ve recycled an article that I wrote two years ago. Other than the number of casualties which then stood at 85, we are now at a staggering figure of 145, nothing drastic at the “Hill” has changed and it depicts the project pretty well.
Please do join me in lighting that “Candle in a Jar”. The troops need to know that they are not alone and that there is light at the end of that tunnel.
Peace on Earth to one and all and remember. Collectively, we can make a difference.
THE JAR HEAD CEREMONY
Well it had been a huge argument with myself for the better part of all last week and to tell you the truth, I didn’t know if I should do it or not. Let’s face it, the upside down flag would make a statement but was it the one I wanted to make. After all, I was ex-military and was kind of proud to see the red maple leaf sit there on top of “Ciment Hill”, fluttering away. Over the last month, a lot of work had gone into preparing my monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers of Afghanistan and like one “Tim Horton’s” patron had commented, “You got to see this. Gino’s the only guy that I know that does landscaping with a front end loader.” Actually, it’s not a loader but rather a “Pettitbone lumber yard fork lift. Whatever you want to call it, it did the job. Let’s face it, if you’re going to move 30 some tons of cement slabs, you need to have something that can do the heavy lifting. Besides, those red and white geraniums are a bitch to plant.
This whole affair began when Yves Beausoleil and a bunch of middle aged “want to be bikers” decided that they would come down and officially open “Ciment Hill”. I agreed to this proposal as what the hell, it sounded like a good occasion to throw a party for a few good friends. However, I felt that the “Hill” needed some sprucing up so we decided to attend to it.
The plan had been hatched last winter when walking across the road from my place through a landfill site, I came across a cement slab that reminded me of one that I had seen in Bosnia. Not considering that it looked like a large tombstone, what had struck me about the one in Medak, was that with all the bombing and shelling, they had resolved nothing and it seemed that the only thing they had managed to accomplish was to totally destroy a bunch of cement buildings. Anyway, every time I drove by that desolate location, I always thought that the “stone” might still have some usefulness and that somebody should write something on it, something really profound that would remind the local people as to how stupid war could be.
So now here I was in early in May, driving my Pettitbone, going on a mission to the landfill site. My particular cement slab would be eventually bulldozed over and buried if I didn’t retrieve it so it needed to be brought back as I had found some usefulness for it. When I got there, I was surprised to see that there was a guy on a bulldozer at that location and that there was to be a bidding war over the “tombstone slab”. After listening to him for a while, I realized that if I was to claim ownership to it, I would have to state a good argument. After explaining that I wanted to use it to create the monument, not only did this guy agree to give me my slab but he volunteered to dig all of them out for me and put them to the side. I was really happy about this prospect and was even happier to see that at least one other individual in this area, supported the troops.
As it turns out, one thing led to another and basically I was again the talk of the local “Tim Horton’s”. Whether out of curiosity or support, a whole bunch of folks started visiting the “Hill.” It was kind of interesting to hear the comments some of them made. They went from “This is quite the noble cause” right to “Afghanistan? What’s going on there?” Also, some of them came bearing gifts. One brought an old rusty “WW I” helmet, while another brought an old pair of combat boots. However, the one that took the cake was this old guy in his mid 80’s. He opened his trunk and offered me and get this, a “WW II” 250 lbs bomb. I was kind of taken aback a bit till he reassured me that it was just the casing. “It might be empty” I replied “but it sure makes a statement.”
Then two weeks ago, I was visited by someone and this made me realize that I might be onto something with this project. If we recall, on 07 Jun 08, Capt J. Snyder was to become the 85th Canadian casualty of the Afghanistan conflict. As per SOP at Baisley Lodges, early the next morning, I proceeded to the “Hill” to lower the flag at half mast. While walking towards the place, I noticed that a “Land Cruiser” was parked in front of the “Bunkhouse.” When he saw me coming, the driver got out of the vehicle and headed towards me. I recognized the person as one of the only two Muslims that I know in the region. Omar (fictitious name) is an Iraqi immigrant that exiled himself to Canada during the early 80’s. Although we know each other somewhat, we are not great acquaintances and to see him there that early in the morning felt a bit strange. Very polite and respectful, he approached me and extended his hand, giving me the traditional Muslim greeting. “Well Good Morning to you too, Omar” I told him, genuinely glad to see him. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, this early in the morning?” I asked. “Well Gino”, he replied sort of looking sheepishly at the ground, “from what I was made to understand, you pour a bag of concrete every time a Canadian soldier dies and if that is the case and of course with your permission, it would be a great honor for me to give you one this morning as a sign of respect for SNYDER. To say that I was shocked would be the understatement of the day. I just didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t find the right words to express what I was feeling. I guess when he saw the lump in my throat and the tears fill up my eyes, he knew that there was nothing that needed to be said. He simply extended his arms and gave me a huge hug. “You know my friend,” he said in broken English, “one day this war will end and the world will realize that there were no winners, just a whole bunch of losers.” “Yeah, I know,” I managed to reply “but when will we learn?” Not being in the mood to start discussing politics, I cut the conversation short by adding, “Omar, where’s that cement? Not only would I get real pleasure accepting it, it would be a great honor for me if you poured it.” Without hesitation, he accepted and went back to his jeep to get the bag. After it was emptied, I told him it was now time to lower the flag. While doing so, I heard a heel clicking bang of a sound. I turned around only to see this ex-military man, standing there at attention, giving a salute for a fallen fellow soldier. While tying the rope back on the post, I couldn’t stop thinking as to how in this neck of the woods, we really didn’t care as to what religion one belonged to. It was just good enough to simply get along. That morning had an impact on me, an impact that I would remember for the rest of my life.
So here’s the scoop. I for one do “Support the Troops.” Not only do I support them, I struggle through each and every day, living their emotions and worrying about them every hour of that 24 hours. After six years of this so called “War against Terrorism”, can we honestly say that we’ve made any real progress? After all this time, shouldn’t we be thinking that maybe a stalemate might be the only possible outcome to this conflict? Do we have a concrete plan or have we even started thinking about an exit strategy? Here locally, “Ciment Hill” seems to serve as a reminder to the local population that Canada is at war. It helps them realize that a lot of its sons and daughters have and are sacrificing their lives so that we may have the pleasure of living in complete freedom. This is where it gets twisted a bit. Instead of focusing some necessary energy towards maybe looking at a possible solution for peace, we seem to be satisfied just watching “the parade go by”. We enjoy complaining about things like the price of gas but we still drive alone down to the local “Tim” so that we can get that needed cup of coffee. I could go on ranting about how spoiled we are as a nation but will leave that topic alone. Nonetheless, if I was to ask for the names of five fallen soldiers, could any of you give them to me without “surfing” the net. Honestly, I think that it might be quite the challenge for most of us ex-military types. So now let’s translate that to our civilian counterparts and you know what, “Most of them don’t even know that there’s a “Fucken Parade” going on. However if I was to ask you the name ex-Minister Bernier’s girlfriend, everybody would raise their hand with the answer. Kind of sarcastic, don’t you think?
Anyway, we are officially opening “Ciment Hill” to the public on the 29th of June 08 and everybody is welcomed to drop in. As part of the evening celebrations, we will be proceeding with the “Jar Head” ceremony. For the occasion, a sticker with the name of each and every fallen comrades, will be applied to 85 jars containing candles. At 2300 hrs (local) these candles will be lit as a memento to those who died serving their country. Now, I know that you all can’t build a 30 ton monument in your backyards but that the price of a candle in a jar can be feasible. So, I would like to invite all of you to join me in lighting your own jar that evening. If one of you does it, then this time spent canvassing for peace was not in vain. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get the chance to speak a message of peace to a friend of a friend. Who knows, maybe that collectively, we might be on to something. Now, if someone was to put “Jar Heads” on the overpasses of the “Highway of Heroes”… Just make sure that they are properly secured. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a broken windshield.
So for now, I’ll wish everyone of you a Happy Canada Day. Please do stay safe.
P.S. As for the upside down flag, I might just do it on the 1st of July 08.
I just love looking at people’s faces when I parade my flag around on the river with my “long canoe”. They’ve been wondering who this “Wack Job” is for years. Now, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my audience, would I ?