Monday, July 24, 2006

Serving and Dying with Dignity

I was recently in touch with a very old friend of mine, with whom I shared my education at the expense of the UK Ministry of Defence. After graduation from Britain's academic military academy, he chose the Royal Air Force, while I became an unemployed drop-out from the Navy. My friend is still in the RAF, and recently served the first of two stints in Iraq - he's going back shortly and is trying to get sent to Afghanistan as well, before his commission finally ends in two years' time.

My life in backwoods rural Ontario is a world away, both figuratively and literally, from the world I knew then as a young man. But Dave reminded me of the life we both shared at that time - a group of young men and women, eager to serve their country. Young, frivolous, playful, often drunk, and yet deadly serious about the calling they had chosen to pursue. None of them had any illusions about a military career, or about what that career could mean to them and their families.

It is a salutory reminder in these days when some of our own have and will continue to fall in Afghanistan. I suspect, that like my friends in the UK, our troops are serious about their calling and under no illusions about the possible outcome of their work. Certainly, this young man is.

The mass hysteria of the mainstream media, led by the CBC, when one of our soldiers is lost, would be alien to my friend, and I suspect it is alien to many of the comrades of Canada's fallen. The crocodile tears of left-wing politicians are a poor tribute to a brave soldier.

Far better to recognise the bravery and sacrifice, the dignity and honor of those who serve, whether they fall or not. That is what the young men and women I went to school with understood, and that is what they would expect and want. A soldier should be allowed to serve and die with dignity and not end his days as a political football punted this way and that by the chattering classes.