By: DEIRDRE HEALEY
GUELPH (Feb 16, 2007)
Ryan Kenny no longer feels the urge to keep looking over his shoulder.
It's a luxury he has enjoyed since he returned to his Guelph home last weekend after serving six months in Afghanistan.
But he didn't fully realize this new freedom until a few days ago while watching a woman walking through the mall, distracted and not paying attention to where she was going.
"In Afghanistan, everyone is always paying attention to what's going on. You are always on guard," said the 25-year-old. "But here it's safe. We really do have it made here."
Kenny is among a dozen reservists from Guelph's 11th Field Regiment who set aside their lives for a six-month mission in Afghanistan.
Local soldiers started to return one by one at the beginning of February and should all be home by the end of the month.
Kenny arrived home Saturday just before midnight and yesterday took part in the Flag Day celebration at St. Peter Catholic School along with fellow Guelph reservist Denis Bingham. They stood in the bitter cold in just their fatigues while students raised a flag in front of their Westwood Road school. It was a stark contrast to what the two men were doing just a week earlier.
Kenny, who temporarily left behind his wife and a job as a high school teacher in Mississauga, served with the artillery division in Afghanistan, operating massive guns that can launch shells at enemies as far as 24 kilometres away.
Bingham, now a reservist after serving 20 years with the regular force, was in charge of ensuring soldiers had enough supplies as well as acting as security for one of the command posts.
"You aren't so much scared as you are concerned when you are over there," said the 45-year-old Fergus man. "You are concerned that your team won't come back in one piece. Every time you go out, it's like rolling the dice."
Despite the dangers, Bingham has already signed up to return to Afghanistan in the summer of 2008.
Yesterday, he shared with the students the commitment soldiers like himself and Kenny make to their country and the important role the Canadian flag plays when you are fighting away from home.
He told them how soldiers have a flag stitched onto the left shoulder of their fatigues and flags are flown above every command post.
"For a soldier, the flag represents what we have left behind," he said.
"And everything we do when we are away reflects the values of the flag we have vowed to protect."