Blog 13. Lest We Forget June 21st

….And part of my story, our story….

English/Anglais AR2006-G047-0021 30 November 2006 Kandahar, Afghanistan On a brisk November morning, members of Canadian Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF-AFG) and a delegation of the British, American, Dutch, Danes, Romanians, and the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency (CFPSA) pay their final respects during a ramp ceremony for Cpl Albert Storm and CWO Robert Girouard before their final journey from the Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Cpl Storm and CWO Girouard were killed by a suicide vehicle born improvised explosive device (SVBIED) on Monday morning. Photo by: MCpl Yves Gemus Task Force Afghanistan Roto 2 Imagery Technician French/Franais AR2006-G047-0021 30 novembre 2006 Kandahar (Afghanistan) Par un matin frisquet de novembre, des membres de la Force opŽrationnelle en Afghanistan (FOA), une dŽlŽgation des contingents britannique, amŽricain, nŽerlandais, danois et roumain ainsi que des reprŽsentants de lÕAgence de soutien du personnel des Forces canadiennes (ASPFC) se sont rŽunis sur le tarmac du terrain dÕaviation de Kandahar, en Afghanistan. Ils venaient rendre un dernier hommage au Cpl Albert Storm et ˆ lÕAdjuc Robert Girouard avant quÕils ne sÕenvolent pour leur dernier voyage. Le Cpl Storm et lÕAdjuc Girouard ont ŽtŽ tuŽs dans un attentat-suicide ˆ la voiture piŽgŽe (SVBIED). Photo : Cplc Yves Gemus Force opŽrationnelle en Afghanistan, ROTO 2 Technicien en imagerie

….I looked over my left shoulder and saw Zorg approaching the men through the dust, revealing his regimental patch. It seemed to be sign that he was a brother, not a stranger. And that their fallen would be escorted with dignity under his watch. He grabbed one end of the body bag and lifted it onto the floor of the griffon. Snapshot had moved across and pulled the soldier through, placing a seatbelt from a floor ring over his body to secure him. The casualty’s impromptu paul bearers reached out to our passenger. I couldn’t see what they did, a pat of compassion? Blessing? I don’t know. It was surreal. Their heads were low. Faces flaccid with exhaustion, tears, fear, anger, horror, stained with dust and sunburn – stoic.

Another soldier, a senior Warrant Officer, grabbed them and with some hand gestures reminded them it was time to get into a defensive position. The war was still on, they were more vulnerable with a helicopter in their position. Shots were expected.

The NCO looked at me and spun his hand in the air signalling for me to get out, now!

“Let’s go guys.” I called. “Cabin area.”

“Right gun ready, left gun ready.” Snapshot and Zorg called.

“Lifting, with a right turn out.” I started to pull in collective creating another explosion of dust as I inched across the ground, falling over the edge of Three-hills towards the wadi. The aircraft shuddered at maximum weight to gain flying speed. We burst through the dust bubble and skimmed across the trees toward Steel-door. On the right was FOB MADRAS; the few soldiers on watch saluted as we passed.

“Prof, you have the lead and the radios.” I sighed somberly.

“Roger that.” He responded.

It was the quietest flight I had at war. We flew high to avoid enemy fire. We weren’t hunting anymore today. I heard Prof’s voice now and again on the radio breaking the sound of wind and engines. It was peaceful for the moment flying towards the east morning sun. A beautiful sky, but such an ugly, deadly earth.

“KAF tower, This Shakedown 25 Flight” Prof’s voice broke the meditative silence.

“25 Flight, this is KAF tower, Altimeter two-nine-eight-six, FARP or X-ray sir?” Tower called.

“Prof answered, voice was humble: “Shakedown 25 is now Angel 25 Flight. Request direct Role 3 hospital.”

Tower’s voice changed, he knew Angel meant they had a fallen soldier aboard: “Angel 25, you are cleared south ramp arrival direct.” He continued. “Paciderm 11, please orbit and come in behind Angel 25, Gunsmoke 26, Hold present position for Angel 25. Longknife 11, please orbit north come in number three behind Angel 25.” KAF tower kept clearing the way.

My heart throbbed. Everyone was quiet and humbled. The event tears a person in half. It is such a massive honour to carry your brother out of the field of battle. But he’s dead. Why should I feel honour when his family is going to feel nothing but pain and suffering. A mother’s worst fears. A spouses heart shattered. A child’s dreams turn to nightmares of confusion. The other aircraft circled for the two minutes it would take to allow our unencumbered approach showing respect the fallen but beloved Sgt McNeil, ending his first trip towards the Highway of Heroes.

I’ll never forget you. You are of the people I have never met but feel such loss for. Each Remembrance Day, I think of you.

Sgt McNeil

16 thoughts on “Blog 13. Lest We Forget June 21st

  1. Beautifully written. Florence sent me over to your site. Much appreciation for your service, for sharing your story and for the respect given to the fallen, especially Sgt. McNeil. God bless you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for coming. Florence is a doll. It was an honour to serve and it is a challenge to share the emotions and intensity in script. But it is a great experience. I hope you get something out of it as i am of yours–just started reading.


      1. Steve, you meld all 3 when you write your posts. Emotional (humanity), military knowledge and a kindness towards the reader to sweep us up along side of you in your ‘bird’ and be there with you in those moments. I love the dictionary of terms because it helps us to learn as well as remember what everything means.Keep writing…perhaps this is the precursor to your first book?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Steve for your brave service and your powerful story to help us remember those who did not come home on this important day. And thank you for making another Angel happy…Flo.


    1. Thanks Kathy. Bravery? Well I personally bravery is a team effort – couldn’t have done most things without the team. And Flo and I are also an awesome team – ‘we’re’ happy. Thanks again.


  3. Thanks so much for sharing a part of yourself with us and for helping us get a glimpse (however small) into what you and your friends have been through. While your writing is perfect and really paints a vivid picture, I cannot imagine what it’s actually like to be in these situations. Can’t wait to read your other posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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