Sunday, December 7, 2008

The One Hundred

The announcement on Friday, Dec 5 of three combat fatalities in Afghanistan brings the total number of Canadian dead there since 2002 to one hundred soldiers and one diplomat, not including NGO workers and civilian aid workers. The latest three were all members of the First Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. Their bodies will be returned with honour to CFB Trenton tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 8th. They are:

Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson

Corporal Mark Robert McLaren

Private Demetrios Diplaros

CBC news reports the three casualties here and offers some analysis of the casualties here. A list of the all the Afghanistan casualties is maintained by the DND webste here. That National Post prepared this moving graphic:

Click here for a larger view of that NP graphic.

Cpl. McLaren had been wounded in Afghanistan in 2006 when US A-10 aircraft mistakenly attacked Canadian troops during OP MEDUSA.

The same day two Canadian soldiers on foot patrol were wounded in a separate incident, one losing both legs.

Inevitably, the number "100" will be used by voices in Canada debating the wisdom of the mission, especially as Canada's government's longevity is in question. Numbers mau have weight as symbols, but each of these soldiers was a real person whose death leaves huge holes in those left behind. The Globe and Mail did a worthy job of reminding us of this fact in its weekend piece on Sergeant Robert Short, one of the first Canadians to die in Afghanistan, a story called "1 in 100". This account of Short's family, dreading the padre's knock on the door, hit us chaplain candidates hard as we wind down our course and prepare for the day when we might have to perform such a dreaded service.

In all of the discussion of these three deaths, one comment that seems worth repeating comes from Brig-Gen. Thompson, the Canadian commander of Nato forces in Kandahar province. He was quoted in the NP as saying:

"During my short time in Kandahar province, a female civilian member of our task force has been set on fire. A man has had his eyes gouged out in front of his family. Children have been used as suicide bombers against the security forces. A busload of young men have been executed in cold blood. And young girls have had acid thrown in their face on their way to school. Standing up to terror and injustice is not easy and it's not without a cost, as we've learned today."

So stand easy, you soldiers three. You're in good company. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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