Sunday, June 24, 2007

Here Come Our "Fighting Van Doos"

Quebec soldiers headed for Afghanistan in the coming weeks turned to hamburgers and hotdogs Thursday to try to counter mounting opposition in the province to their deployment.Close to 1,200 soldiers, many of them from Quebec City’s Royal 22nd Regiment, gathered in a downtown park for a tailgate party ahead of a Montreal Alouettes pre-season football game.

Sporting their desert fatigues, the troops then marched into nearby Molson Stadium to sing the national anthem.The activities marked the latest in a series of public events aimed at drumming up support for the troops’ mission in the hostile reaches of southern Afghanistan, where three Canadian soldiers were killed earlier this week."This is a voluntary deployment," said Chaplain Charles Deogratias, who will be among those deployed. "The soldiers who are going now have the privilege to change somebody’s life."

Protesters mailed 3,000 letters to soldiers and their families this month urging them to refuse to go to Afghanistan, while an antiwar coalition plans to demonstrate during a military parade on Friday in Quebec City.
(O.K....I ask.. where did the protesters get this information?? - names, addresses..)

Capt. Louis Charland pointed out that part of their job is securing that same right to disagree in Afghanistan."We live in a democracy here and one of the things we’re doing over there is trying to allow people over there to do the same thing, express their opinions," he said. Let them protest, says the military. "This is a democracy," said Capt. Mathieu Dufour, spokesman for the base. "Soldiers have laid down their lives on the front lines for democracy."

Others claimed the increasingly vocal opposition would do little to change their mindset."I’m ready to go, we’re ready to go, and I don’t think it will change our way of thinking," said Warrant Officer Nicolas Cote.

Deogratias says the overriding feeling among the troops is more one of excitement and anticipation than of concern over public opinion."We’ve been preparing now for over a year," he said. "It couldn’t be a better time because everyone is ready."Charland, however, admits that nerves have been an issue."I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t worry about the risks that are part of this," Charland, 25, said. "But you have to be brave and go in there and see what happens."

Small numbers of the Royal 22nd Regiment, the province’s legendary "Fighting Van Doos," quietly deployed to Kandahar last December. This time, there is nothing quiet about the deployment of 2,000-plus Van Doos throughout July and August.

Our best to our "Fighting Van Dos!" Godspeed.

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