Wednesday, March 26, 2008

VIA Rail to Honour Canaidan Forces and National Defence Employees with Free Travel This Summer

I wanted to share today's announcement from VIA Rail with you!
A big HUA to VIA RAIL Canada!
March 26, 2008 – VIA Rail Canada is proud to honour Canada’s current and former Canadian Forces personnel, National Defence employees, and their families, with a special appreciation fare during the month of July. During this time, members of the Canadian Forces and National Defence employees will benefit from free unlimited travel in Comfort class anywhere on VIA’s network. With more than half a million current or retired service personnel eligible, the special fare is the first of its kind.“Like all Canadians we at VIA are proud of the Canadian Forces and pleased when we can help to remind our fellow citizens of their contribution,” said VIA Rail’s Chairman of the Board Donald A. Wright. “In the past, VIA has put the spotlight on our troops and their families through commemorative Remembrance Day trains for the Year of the Veteran and the Year of the War Bride. We hope that this special offer will allow members of the Canadian Forces and their families to experience the country in a way that only the train can offer,” added Mr. Wright. “As Minister responsible for VIA Rail, I am pleased VIA will honour Canadian Forces members and their families with these special fares, and I hope they and their fellow Canadians will take advantage of all VIA has to offer this summer,” said Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. “July is also the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City and I hope Canadians take advantage of this offer to join the festivities.”“The support shown by VIA Rail to Canada’s men and women in uniform, as well as civilian defence employees, is appreciated by the entire defence community,” said Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. “This initiative will allow members of the Canadian Forces to visit more of the country that they have committed to defend.”"VIA Rail's offer is one more way we can repay the great debt that all Canadians owe to the brave men and women who have always been willing to defend our nation," said Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs. "This July, our truest heroes will find it easier than ever to see more of the remarkable country they've helped build."In addition to being able to travel for free with the special fare, members of the Canadian Forces can also bring up to five family members travelling with them at 50 per cent off the regular applicable fare. The offer applies to all current and retired members of the Canadian Forces, Reserve personnel, Department of National Defence employees, and Public Fund employees.For more information, or to reserve a ticket, go to or call toll-free 1 888 VIA-Rail (1888 842-7245) or 1 800 268-9503 (hearing impaired).As Canada’s national passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada's mandate is to provide efficient, environmentally responsible and cost effective passenger transportation services, both in Canada's business corridor and in remote and rural regions of the country. Serving more than 450 communities with a network of inter-city, transcontinental and regional trains, demand for rail services continues to grow as more Canadians turn to train travel as a safe and convenient travel choice.

Valid for travel between July 1, 2008 and July 31, 2008 (inclusive). Qualifying adult passenger is entitled to complimentary travel in Comfort class within Canada throughout the VIA Rail network on any VIA train. Up to five additional immediate family members may travel in Comfort class with the qualifying adult passenger at 50% off the adult regular Comfort class fare provided all passengers travel together on the same trains and dates. Qualifying adult passenger is defined as any adult 18 years of age or older who is in possession of either a valid DND photo identification card, Dependent ID card, or Canex "Club XTra" card. Immediate family members are defined to include the qualifying member's mother, father, spouse or common-law partner or child or a child for which the qualifying adult passenger is a legal guardian. Additionally, this special promotional fare may be combined with VIA's existing "Kids Travel Free" promotion, allowing each adult 18 years of age or older to bring one child 2-11 (family member or non-family member) free of charge on the same trains and dates. With the exception of the "Kids Travel Free" promotion, this discount cannot be combined with any other discount, fare plan, companion fare program, travel product or employee rail pass. Your ticket must be picked up at a VIA Rail ticket counter with a valid DND photo identification card, Dependent ID card or Canex "Club XTra" card. Once issued, tickets may be refunded or exchanged without service charge. In the case of ticket exchanges, new tickets must meet the conditions of this fare plan, and all passengers must continue to travel together on the same trains and dates. Unlimited stopovers are allowed without additional charge. A separate ticket must be obtained for each passenger travelling. Offer excludes members of the RCMP. Not applicable to bookings made online at or with a travel agent or tour operator. Reservations for this special promotion must be made directly with VIA Rail, either by telephone at 1-888-VIARAIL (1-888-842-7245) or 1 800 268-9503 (hearing impaired), or at a VIA station. When booking, please refer to the Canadian Forces Family Appreciation Fare or request Discount 11279. There is no limit to the number of complimentary trips that may be taken during the validity period, provided all conditions and restrictions are met for each trip.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sergeant Jason Boyes is Coming Home - Wednesday, March 19th

Tribute by Sgt. Boye's military families in Kandahar, Afghanistan

Our fallen soldier, Sergeant Jason Boyes, 32, 2nd Battalion, Princes Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), based out of Shilo, Manitoba, is scheduled to return home to Canada Wednesday. Please honour him and join others in paying tribute to Canada's Brave Hero either at CFB Trenton - 8 Wing or along Our Highway of Heroes (Hwy 401 btwn Trenton and Toronto)
Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.
When: Wednesday, March 19, 2:00 p.m.
Present to pay their respects will be Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Laurie Hawn, and other dignitaries.
Sgt. Boyes was killed at approximately 8:20 p.m. Kandahar time on March 16 by an explosive device while participating in a joint Afghan - Canadian foot patrol in the Zangabad region, in the District of Panjwayi, approximately 35 km south-west of Kandahar City.

He Comes Home - Ramp Ceremony at CFB Trenton, Ontario

Military pallbearers carry the casket of Sgt. Jason Boyes, 32, at a private repatriation ceremony in Trenton, Ont., Wednesday. Boyes is the 81st Canadian solider to die in Afghanistan.
— Photo Coutesy:The Canadian Press

Dozens of mourners and supporters huddled under umbrellas and waved Canadian flags Wednesday as the remains of the 81st soldier to be killed in Afghanistan were returned home to his grieving wife and young daughter. On the tarmac, friends and former classmates of Boyes, Aaron Amey and Kevin Wager, joined members of his family, including his parents, wife, Alison and young child Mackenzie.

The grey day matched the sombre mood at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where a military plane cut through a fogged-out sky and steady rain to deliver the casket of 32-year-old Sgt. Jason Boyes, who was killed on Sunday while on foot patrol.
A piper played “Amazing Grace” as Boyes’s family stood solemnly on the tarmac for his repatriation ceremony, and more than 60 supporters watched from behind the fence of the military base.
At the last moment, friends (Aaron Amey and Kevin Wagar) were able to gain access to the service, standing before his casket inside the hearse.
"It was pretty intense," said Amey. "It was one of the most vivid experiences, very heartwrenching, that's for sure. It was a lot to take in."
Both he and Wagar struggled to find the words to express their feelings.
"I had talked to Jason about a month ago and he was saying how excited he was to go there," said Wagar. "It's completely emotionally draining having a good friend of yours pass away.
"Surreal would be an understatement," he said. "It was tough, when you actually see the casket. The Boyes family is being so strong. ... My heart goes out to them."
Outside the base's page- and barbed-wire fence, several more of Boyes's friends stood in the rain, staring quietly at the activity between the military airbus and hearse.
Even from several hundred metres away, the soldier's daughter, Mackenzie, could be seen approaching her father's hearse.
"He was a great guy," said Robin Brown, who in high school was a year behind Boyes.
"He was a stand-up guy; he always had your back," said Brown. "If you wanted things done, he went and did them."
Brown said he was driving to work early Monday morning when he heard about the death of his friend, whom he knew as "Boyesy". After that, he said, he had a new perspective on the war.
"It was real before, but when you know someone, it changes everything."
He added Boyes's friends are "rallying" through social networking sites on the Internet and other ways.
Others from Napanee also made the roughly 40-minute drive to the base. Greater Napanee firefighters positioned a truck at the Glen Miller Road exit off Highway 401; Mayor Gord Schermerhorn was to attend the service; and citizens who never knew the soldier also watched from the fence.
"It's not so much that I know him; it's just that I should be here," said Napanee resident David Keeling, who attended with wife Jeannine. One of their four daughters went to school with Boyes and was "quite upset" by his death, Keeling said.
"It is closer to home now," he said of the war.
Jim Dixon of Belleville holds a flag at the repatriation ceremony of Sgt. Jason Boyes at CFB Trenton yesterday. Dixon and his mother attend every repatriation.
Dylan Masters, 12, of Tweed attended with his mother, and said he had attended about 12 prior repatriations.
"They're fighting for me ... so we can have a safe country," he said.
At every opportunity, Belleville resident Lance McGuire has stood on Highway 401 overpasses as a sign of respect for those in the motorcade which follows each repatriation. Bodies of the fallen are taken from Trenton to Toronto for autopsies before being released to families.
McGuire said "it's eerie" to watch the procession from an overpass. "It's quiet and usually the only chatter is, 'Here comes the soldier,' " said McGuire, who's studying corporate and commercial security at Loyalist College.

He said he was impressed to see so many people assembled under rain ponchos and umbrellas along Highway 2.
"It's patriotic to see this many people here on a day like this," said McGuire.
Boyes' friend Wagar said he was touched most by the "phenomenal" public support.
"It was a filthy, miserable day, and all the people that came out - I never expected to see that," he said. "It really hit home to see all those people standing there."

Over 50 people stopped on the Ontario Street bridge in Cobourg to pay their respects to the passing motorcade at approximately 3:30 p.m., on Wednesday, March 19.
Photo Credit: Peg McCarthy


Members of the 1st Canadian Army Veterans motorcycle club from Trenton and Kingston stand silently as Sgt. Jason Boyes' hearse leaves CFB Trenton Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, as Boyes's friend Amey prepared to leave for the ceremony, he said he felt compelled to be there, regardless of whether or not he would be on the base. Boyes deserved that support, he said.
"He's in a good place, and he'll know we're there."
"We're just very proud," Amey said after the repatriation. "It puts things in perspective. It's a very humbling experience when somebody close to you makes the supreme sacrifice. You really stop and think about how much small things matter when you see something like that."
Wagar noted the Boyes family has said it still supports the war, and that Sgt. Boyes' work overseas will endure.
"He's always going to be a hero in my eyes, and everybody's."

Napanee Mourns
About 60 kilometres from the base is Boyes’s hometown of Napanee, Ont., where news of his death was still spreading on Wednesday — sending shock waves through the community.The Canadian flag was hung at half mast at Napanee’s Royal Canadian Legion, where locals predicted Boyes’s death would be a “very big event” once word got around to everyone in the town of about 15,000.
Like many Canadians, people in the town had grown so accustomed to hearing about military casualties in Afghanistan that it was no longer shocking, said Jim Perry, who went to high school and played sports with Boyes.
But Perry said he expects the news will soon be unescapable and that most town residents will be just as shocked as he was when he heard Boyes’s name on the radio.“I didn’t realize he went over there, so to hear his name over the radio was quite a surprise like — wait, I know that guy,” Perry said.“He was popular in high school. He wasn’t like someone you didn’t know walking down the halls at school, so it’s probably going to be quite a shock for people to know somebody from here died.”
Col. John Vance, commander of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, called Sgt. Boyes a “good Canadian and a fine soldier.”
“Sgt. Jason Boyes died doing something noble in the name of his country — protecting innocent Afghans so they can rebuild their communities,” Col. Vance said in a statement.
Maj. Michael Wright, commander of the Rear Party of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's, said Sgt. Boyes “epitomized the warrior spirit.”
“He was a natural leader who had proven himself time and time again in combat,” Maj. Wright said in a statement.
“His death was a blow to the regiment and the battle group, but just this morning I received a note from Lt-.Col. David Corbould stating that having seen Sgt. Boyes off at the ramp ceremony, they were carrying on with their mission — because Jason would be damn angry if they weren't.”
Sgt. Boyes is survived by his widow Alison and their two-year-old daughter Mackenzie.

Bless his familes, friends and comrades here and overseas and keep them in your prayers. He will be missed by many.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bless Sergeant Jason Boyes March 16, 2008

A Canadian soldier was killed Sunday March 16, 2008, by an explosive device while participating in a joint Afghan-Canadian foot patrol in the Zangabad region, in the District of Panjwayi, approximately 35 km South-West of Kandahar City. The soldier was immediately evacuated by helicopter to the Canadian-led multinational hospital at Kandahar Airfield, where he later succumbed to his wounds. The incident occurred at approximately 8:20 p.m. Kandahar time.

Our deceased and brave soldier is Sergeant Jason Boyes, age 32, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), based out of Shilo, Manitoba.
At the time of the incident, the soldier's unit was conducting a dismounted presence patrol in the area with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). These patrols are part of the many ways ANSF and ISAF show their presence, monitor the security situation and interact with the local population.This incident will not deter us from continuing our work with the Government and the people of Afghanistan. Incidents like this one prove that, along with our Afghan National Security Force partners, Canadians need to continue working to bring about peace and security in the region.

Lt.-Col. Dave Corbould, commander of Boyes' battle group, said the soldier was "a committed warrior." Boyes was "a leader through and through," he said. "He was someone we can all emulate. He represented the warrior spirit 100 per cent."
Regimental Sgt.-Maj. Brian Semenko also described Boyes as a committed soldier. He said he had talked a lot about the mission with Boyes over the past few years.
"He was really dedicated to the idea of serving overseas," Semenko said. "He felt the best way to serve was to do it overseas. His idea was not to give candy to children, but to kill insurgents."
Laroche said Boyes had arrived in the last few weeks with a new rotation of troops.
"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our lost comrade in this very difficult time," he said. "We have lost a brother and a fine soldier who answered a call of duty one last time."
In a statement issued by the military, Boyes' family said they are "devastated" by the news.
"Jason loved his job, he loved the military and his fellow soldiers loved him back. His world was his 2 year old daughter, Mackenzie, his wife, Alison, his dogs and his family," the statement said.
"This was his third tour in Afghanistan. We have always, and still do, support this mission."

Boyes was born in Lynn Lake, Man., but was raised in Camden East and attended Napanee District Secondary School before joining the army in his early 20s. His parents now live in Kingston.
Boyes spoke to the Whig-Standard in 2002 during his first deployment to Afghanistan about the physical hardships of soldiering in that country.
"We pretty much stay out of the sun and drink water constantly," he said from Kandahar.
Then a corporal, Boyes had just returned from a five-day mission clearing caves of Taliban in the mountains in blazing summer heat while carrying 100 kilograms of gear, the last 30 hours without food or water because it was too dangerous to be resupplied.
"It was rough," he said, but he noted the soldiers accomplished their mission and credited the Canadian military's training for their ability to operate there.
"It just seems we're more hardy than our American counterparts ... It's all in the way we're trained," he said. "I like the way we do things. I take pride in that."

We have lost a fine Canadian today, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of this brave soldier.
Statement by the Minister of National Defence on
the Death of Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, issued the following statement today on the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan:"I would like to offer my most sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sergeant Jason Boyes who died tragically yesterday in Afghanistan.Sergeant Boyes was an extremely brave Canadian who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly serving his country. This is a tragic loss for the Canadian Forces and all of Canada.Sergeant Boyes was killed by an explosive device while on a foot patrol in the Zanghabad region, in Panjwayi district. These patrols are part of the many ways that members of the Canadian Forces show their presence, monitor the security situation and interact with the local population. The efforts of Canada's soldiers are making a difference in southern Afghanistan and their sustained presence in the region will allow for reconstruction and development to continue.Sergeant Jason Boyes was a member of the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian light infantry, based in Shilo Manitoba.

Statement by Stephen Harper:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his "deepest condolences to the loved ones of Sgt. Jason Boyes." In a statement Monday afternoon, Harper said Boyes was "a well- respected member of the Canadian Forces" and "an exceptionally brave soldier who deserves the support and gratitude of all Canadians."

Statement by Governor General Michaëlle Jean

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean said Boyes "deserves our respect and admiration" and offered condolences to his family and fellow soldiers.
"We share your grief and honour his memory," Jean said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet - March 11, 2008

Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet
At approximately 2:15 pm today (Tuesday, March 11th, 2008) Kandahar time, a newly arrived Canadian soldier was discovered in an accommodation room, at the NATO airbase in Kandahar Airfield sparking an immediate military investigation into the circumstances of his death.
Brigadier-General Guy Laroche said that 22-year-old Jérémie Ouellet was part of the latest rotation of troops, the majority of coming to Afghanistan in recent weeks from Shilo, Man.
A Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigation is ongoing to establish the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. No further details are available at this time, although enemy action has been ruled out.
The identity of the deceased soldier is:Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet, age 22, 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA), based out of Shilo, Manitoba. He was born in Matane, Que.

The thoughts and prayers of the men and women of the Canadian Forces and those of us here in Canada go out to the family and friends of Bombardier Ouellet both here and overseas.

Statement by the Minister of National Defence on the Death of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet
The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, issued the following statement today on the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan:"I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet who died while serving his country in Afghanistan. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.This is a challenging mission, but the Government of Canada and its international allies are committed to helping the Afghan people achieve peace and stability and rebuild their country and its institutions."

Message from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, on the death of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet
It was with great sadness that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I learned of the death of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet, of the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, stationed at Shilo, in Manitoba.The mission being carried out by our soldiers in Afghanistan is in many respects a very difficult and stressful one. It is a tremendous challenge. We salute the generosity of our women and men in uniform as we know they face ordeals on a daily basis.Canadians join with me to offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet. Our hearts are with them as they grieve.
Michaelle Jean

Ramp Ceremony-
Leaving Afghanistan and Coming Home
With the roar of helicopter rotors thudding across the tarmac at Kandahar airfield, the body of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet began its journey home late Wednesday afternoon.
The 22-year-old artilleryman had been found dead a day earlier in one of the sleeping accommodations at this base. The circumstances of his death have not been revealed and his case is now being probed by a military investigative unit.
But Pierre Bergeron, senior chaplain for the Joint Task Force, told the assembled crowd that today was not the time to ask questions about how this young man died. Instead it is “a time to grieve together and let the family know that we care and share” about their loss.
“Today we unite our hearts and thoughts with the Ouellet family, who lost a son and a brother,” Chaplain Bergeron said. “We send him home so that his family can receive him with love.”
As he spoke the flag-draped coffin of Bombardier Ouellet was waiting at the edge of the tarmac, with two massed ranks of soldiers waiting for him to pass between them. At a shouted command thousands of soldiers brought their hands up in a salute and, accompanied by a lone bagpiper, the coffin was carried slowly to a waiting Hercules.
The ramp ceremony was attended by thousands of soldiers from the other countries contributing to this mission. The diversity of both nation and unit was evident in the varied head dress, which included berets in red, green, blue and black. There were also wedge-shaped caps, ball caps and an Australian bush hat, one side pinned up and a chinstrap holding it in place.
Brigadier-General Guy Laroche, the commander of the Canadian contingent operating out of this base, was standing with other senior officers at the foot of the plane's ramp. At his side was Elissa Golberg, the civilian representative of Canada in Kandahar.
Within minutes the ceremony was over and the plane's crew were preparing for the flight to Canada. Bombardier Ouellet will be accompanied on the long flight by a member of his unit.

Repatriation Ceremony - Friday, March 14, 2008
The body of Jeremie Ouellet has returned to Canadian soil. A military plane carrying the flag-draped casket of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet arrived at CFB Trenton, Ont. on Friday afternoon. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and other dignitaries met the plane.
Ouellet, 22, a native of Matane, Que., was stationed at CFB Shilo in southern Manitoba.
It was really sombre," said Capt. Nicole Meszaros, a spokesperson for CFB Trenton. "You can see the family struggling to deal with this. And we know they're hurting here at CFB Trenton -- and without sounding cliche, we're hurting for them. It's a sad moment. A sad ceremony."

In an earlier statement, Ouellet's family called him "a dedicated and professional soldier" who was "serving his country with a lot of honour and pride."
"I know what some people are thinking and I can tell you he was not the type of person to commit suicide," said Jérémie's uncle, Alain Ouellet, who operates a gas station and convenience store in Matane.
Mr. Ouellet described his nephew as a big, strong man who, at 250 pounds, didn't drink alcohol or take drugs. He was disciplined and would never use physical force against anyone, Mr. Ouellet said.
"Was it an accident, was he manipulating his weapon, was he cleaning his gun? We don't know. All I can tell you is that he was proud to be a soldier and he was looking forward to being deployed in Afghanistan," Mr. Ouellet said, his voice shaking.
Among the soldiers returning from the previous rotation was Jérémie's brother Michael, who had experienced the stress of military operations in Afghanistan.
"We will miss him a lot as will his friends," the family said in a statement issued yesterday by the Defence Department. "Jérémie will remain in our hearts and we will continue to think of him."

His body was taken by a hearse to Toronto, along a stretch of Highway 401 dubbed Highway of Heroes. As his funeral procession drove along the highway Canadians lined the overpasses to pay their respects.
My prayers are with the Ouellet Family during this difficult time. ~m.m.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Military Mom

Upon returning from training in Texas, and through tears of pride and relief and and hugs welcoming him, he reached over and gave me a bag. He said, " This is for you." In the bag was a beautiful plaque with a picture similar to our last trip to Ottawa on it. Written upon the picture was a prayer. I thought I would share his gift with you. Thank you Son. I love you very, very much.

The Military Mom
Give me the greatness of heart to see,
The difference between duty and his love for me.
Give me understanding, so that I may know,
When duty calls him, he must go.
Give me a task to do each day,
To fill the time when he's away.
When he's in a foreign land,
Keep him safe in your loving hand.
And Lord, when duty is in the field,
Please protect him and be his shield.
And Lord, when deployment is so long,
Please stay with me and keep me strong.
Author Unknown
"Bless all Military Moms"

Saturday, March 08, 2008

REVEALED: The Path to Wars

Airing this Tuesday March 11, 2008 on Global Television will be the following:
REVEALED: The Path to War
Directed by Mike Sheerin
Produced by 90th Parallel Productions,

This is an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes decisions made by the Canadian government that led to Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, exposing how Canada found itself on the front lines. This program draws on the research and reporting from the best-selling book "The Unexpected War" by Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang. The timing of this broadcast may be significant as the House of Commons has scheduled the final vote on the Afghan extension for Thursday March 13th - two days after the film airs. Coincidence?
See promo below. Thanks Kate! ~ m.m.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Last Letters From Kandahar

In the next while, I will be publishing "Last Letters from Kandahar" A tribute that MacLeans had done this past Remembrance Day. Personally, they have hit me emotionally. These letters—poi­gnant, personal and free of political rhetoric—are a lasting tribute to not only the individual authors, but to all men and women who serve in uniform. Godspeed.
The first is from:
PRIVATE WILLIAM CUSHLEY, 21 Born in Port Lambton, Ont., Cushley was a mem­ber of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, ON. He was among five men killed in Afghanistan on Labour Day weekend of 2006.
The morning he deployed to Afghanistan, his mother, Elaine, drop­ped him off at the bus. She promised not to cry—going so far as to bet her only son $50 that her eyes would stay dry. Moments after Cushley climbed on board, his mom lost the wager. He got off the bus, gave her one last hug, then left for Kandahar. On Sept. 3, 2006, Cushley was killed in a chaotic battle with the Taliban.

Below is a copy of the handwritten note he left for his mother.
If you are reading this, I’m sorry, but I will not be coming back home. Thank you for everything you have ever done for me. I really do appreciate it. You were always there for me even when I didn’t want you to be. I have one last favour to ask you. In this envelope is two more letters, one for Tasha, one for Brandy. If you could please deliver them to them I would really appreciate it. I just want you to know that I love you and that I fought bravely and did everything I could to come home. Do not weep too much, I will always be with you in heart & spirit! Love always & forever, Will P.S.—you can keep the $50! LOL.

Program: Life and Death in Kandahar

Surfing the news the other day, I caught the tail end of The Fifth Estate.
COMING UP this Wednesday March 12, 2008 at 9 PM EST on CBC will be a program piece entitled:
LIFE and Death in Kandahar

Description: To the sound of incoming choppers carrying wounded for treatment, the fifth estate takes you where most Canadians will never go: to the critical drama at the heart of Canada's war in Afghanistan. For four weeks, fifth estate cameras had exclusive access to Canada's military trauma center at Kandahar Air base--think MASH unit, 21st century style-- and to the medical professionals who work there, fighting their own battles at the turning point between life and death. Wherever you stand on Canada's Afghan mission, you will want to meet these remarkable professionals, captured with unprecedented intimacy and candour, as they work under constant pressure at the cutting edge of modern warfare.

See a preview at:

Monday, March 03, 2008

Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze

NEWS OF A FALLEN SOLDIER -Monday, March 2nd, 2008
3:45 pm Kandahar, Afghanistan
It is with sadness today that we announce the name of a fallen soldier. Our thoughts and prayers are sent to Trooper Hayakaze's friends and family, both here and overseas as they travel a difficult journey ahead. God Bless you Trooper Hayakaze .
Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze was killed on 2 March, 2008 when the vehicle he was traveling in hit an Improvised Explosive Device. The incident occurred around 3:45 p.m. Kandahar time, approximately 45 West of Kandahar city in the Mushan region, located in the District of Panjawayi. The explosion hit a convoy driving supplies to an Afghan army outpost. Trooper Hayakaze, was 25 years old and a member of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), based out of Edmonton, Alberta. Trooper Hayakaze was immediately evacuated from the scene by helicopter, but later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead upon his arrival at the Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield. His vehicle was part of a routine patrol during the time of the incident. We have lost a fine Canadian today, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this brave soldier. En Francais Le Cavalier Michael Yuki Hayakaze a trouvé la mort le 2 mars 2008 quand le véhicule à bord duquel il prenait place a heurté un dispositif explosif de circonstance. L’incident est survenu vers 15 h 45, heure de Kandahar, à environ 45 km à l’ouest de Kandahar, dans la région de Mushan. Le Cavalier Hayakaze était âgé de 25 ans et faisait partie du Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), un régiment basé à Edmonton (Alberta). With only a few days left in his rotation Dave Valens feared the worst as three uniformed soldiers stepped out of a dark sedan at 9 a.m. Sunday and approached Mrs. Hayakaze's front door. He was right. His neighbour's son Mike, the boy who'd attended nearby Bellevue Elementary and Eastglen Composite, had just become Canada's latest Afghan battlefield fatality. "I knew what it was right away when I saw the three soldiers get out of that car," Valens said. "I was devastated. I knew Mike was in the army. His mother had been so proud of him." Trooper Michael Hayakaze, 25, of Edmonton Garrison's Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) Regiment had been scheduled to return to Canada in just a few days after six months in the turbulent central Asian country. Early Sunday, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off beneath his armoured vehicle. He'd been on a routine resupply mission in the unruly Zhari district, 45 kilometres west of the City of Kandahar, an area that has become notorious for ambushes and booby-trap bombs. The IED ruptured the hull of the armoured vehicle. Hayakaze was quickly flown back to an airfield hospital in a military helicopter but he was declared dead on arrival. Sunday evening, Hayakaze's brother Dave sat with his mother as she grieved in her little stucco house on 66th Street near 114th Avenue. Hayakaze is the 79th Canadian soldier and the 21st Edmonton-based soldier to die in Afghanistan. more Reflections Betsy Pisik, a Washington Times reporter, yesterday recalled spending eight hours in a tank with Trooper Hayakaze and his fellow soldiers, just a couple of days before Christmas. "He was convinced of the mission," she said in an interview. She said "Kaze" was amused to learn his abbreviated name would've sounded like qasi to the local inhabitants - a term for an Islamic judge versed in sharia law. Ms. Pisik said Trooper Hayakaze didn't seem to mind the privations of living at a hardship outpost, and that he could find humour in Afghanistan - he was amused, for example, by the fact the citizens grew eight-foot-tall marijuana plants and carted them around unrepentantly. But she also said he was a sharp-eyed soldier who was deadly serious whenever he popped his head outside a tank's hatch, to scour the countryside for possible threats. "He would see stuff with his naked eye long before I ever did," she said.
From inside an army outpost carved into a craggy mountainside this winter, Trooper Michael Hayakaze reflected on the smiles of Afghan children. He said that whenever he saw them, it made him feel optimistic. "When the kids come running up to the road and they smile, it's the best," the 25-year-old soldier told the Washington Times reporter in December. "When we first showed up, you know, they used to run and hide, or they would throw stones at our tanks," he explained. "And you know they get that from their parents. So if they're not afraid of us, that means it's getting better."Last July, Hayakaze told the Toronto Star's Petti Fong in Edmonton he expected to be in Afghanistan the following month and felt frustrated by debates about whether Canada should pull out of the combat mission before 2009. "When we hear of these tragedies, it's always depressing and always makes me go quiet and think about why we're really there," he said. "What happens to all those men and women who've died if we just leave?" Statement from Minister of Defence: The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, issued the following statement today on the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan: "It is with great sadness I learned today of the death of Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze. This brave Canadian died while traveling in a convoy through the Mushan region in Kandahar province. The thoughts and prayers of all Canadians go out to his family, friends and comrades at this very difficult time. The re-supply patrol was traveling in the Mushan region of the District of Panjawayi, 45 kilometers west of Kandahar City, when it was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device. This cowardly attack will not deter us from carrying out this important and much needed mission with our NATO partners. Canada's participation in this United Nations-mandated NATO mission is a true reflection of Canadian values: helping those in need and defending the interests of those who can't yet defend themselves. We will never forget Trooper Hayakaze whose self-sacrifice served to make life better for so many others."
A Legacy - Send your Condolences

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RAMP CEREMONY - Kandahar Airforce Base, Afghanistan
Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Comrades of Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze who was killed Sunday, March 2, 2008 by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan escort his coffin up the tarmac at the Kandahar Air Field on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Photo Credit: Stephanie Levitz
At least 3,000 soldiers and civilians from Canada, the United States, Australia, Britain, France and other gathered on the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield to pay their final respects to 25-year-old Michael Yuki Hayakaze. At the sunrise ramp ceremony Tuesday morning, his coffin was carried by fellow soldiers from the Lord Strathcona regiment of Edmonton. "Amazing Grace" played as the flag-draped coffin was put in the back of a Hercules plane to be flown home to Canada. His commanding officer back in Edmonton, Lt.-Col. Pascal Demers, met with media on Monday, and told them Hayakaze's family has requested a military funeral. "The word I did get from Trooper Hayakaze's father, Ted, was just that he expressed a wish to honour and respect his son's service to society, and of course we'll respect that,'' said Demers, commanding officer of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). Earlier reports said Hayakaze had been in Afghanistan since July or August, but on Monday the military said he had been deployed in October to replace another soldier who had been injured by a similar roadside bomb. "Michael Hayakaze at the time of his death was giving moms and kids in the small town Kandahar a chance at a decent life and I for one love him for it," Col. Jon Vance said. Hayakaze graduated from Eastglen High School in 2001. Teachers said he never failed to leave a lasting impression. "He was a polite student, a thoughtful student and the kind of student that would be an absolute pleasure to teach," social studies teacher Trudy Oatway said. Hayakaze joined the army in July 2006, and travelled to Fort Bliss, Texas and Germany for his specialized driver training. He was only days away from returning to Canada at the end of his mission. Flags flew at half-mast on at the Edmonton garrison in his memory

Tears Fall
Standing silently in the rising sun, a chaplain wept Tuesday as the body of the Canadian soldier left the Kandahar Air Field. Like the chaplain himself, Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze was only days away from leaving this dusty country when he was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday. Clutching each others shoulders as they bore his coffin up the tarmac, the pallbearers - his comrades in the field - also wept, tears cutting paths down the dust on their cheeks. To orders shouted in the various languages of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, over 2,500 soldiers from several different countries lined the tarmac to salute Hayakaze on his final journey. Some had just arrived in theatre, their uniforms still free of the dirt that clings to so much in Kandahar. It was a sombre welcome to the battefield. But Padre Maj. Pierre Bergeron told them they should keep memories of Hayakaze with them as they prepared to take up the fight. "Our prayer this morning is that we continue to serve with resolve, determination and courage as we remember those who have gone before us," he said. "Courage is not the absence of fear but the determination to do what is right in spite of our fear. Yes, we will remember him."

REPATRIATION CEREMONY - Delay due to WeatherTrenton
Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
Please note: The blizzard conditions enveloping Ontario Wednesday have led to a one-day delay in the repatriation ceremony for Canada's most recently fallen soldier, military officials have announced. The Repatriation Ceremony of Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze, 25, of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), based at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, Alberta, is delayed until Thursday.
Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.
When: Thursday March 6, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
Present to pay their respects will be Her Excellency, the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and other dignitaries.
Pay your respects to Trooper Hayakaze and his family
Join fellow Canadians on the 401 overpasses between Trenton and Toronto (Along our Highway of Heroes). Hold a Canadian flag, wear red, or just be present. Honour our fallen soldier.

Thursday, March 6th, 2008 - 2:00PM
The body of Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze killed in Afghanistan, returned home yesterday aboard a military aircraft as dignitaries and local citizens gathered at Canadian Forces Base Trenton to pay their respects.
The military plane carrying the flag-draped casket of Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze landed at CFB Trenton Thursday afternoon.
Hayakaze's brother, along with his mother Machiko Inoue and father Ted Hayakaze, joined Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and Defence Minister Peter MacKay to begin the sombre repatriation ceremony.
Maj. Isabelle Robitaille said Thursday that it was a touching ceremony, as 100 people - including many from the general public - came to pay their respects to the fallen soldier.
"The general public stood outside the fenced area. It was a large crowd considering it's a weekday," she said. "Unfortunately after so many of these ceremonies, they are still there to support the soldiers. The mood was very touching."

Military retirees Jim Campbell of Trenton and Geoff Brogden of nearby Consecon each spent about 35 years in the service. Campbell, a communications operator, said he'd attended about 15 repatriations from Afghanistan. It was a first for Brogden, who had been a flight engineer.
When asked why they wanted to watch the repatriation in person, each answered with one word: "Respect."
The 1st Canadian Army Veterans motorcycle club, a regular presence at repatriations, watched from along the fence surrounding the base.
"It never gets any easier," member Tim McCully said, adding his thoughts are not only for the fallen, but their families. "The families that are home waiting and wondering -- that's the hardest duty."
Highway of Heroes Tributes and Honours

Hayakaze's hearse, followed by family members, travelled to Toronto with a police escort along the Highway of Heroes, a stretch of Ontario's Highway 401 renamed to honour Canada's fallen soldiers as people lined the highway and overpasses to honour our fallen soldier, our hero.
In what has become a traditional display across this part of the province, mourners flocked to Hwy. 401 overpass bridges on Thursday to honour the passing of fallen soldier Trooper Michael Yuki Hayakaze.
“It’s never good to be back out here for the loss of a solider,” said Seargeant-at-Arms Dave Galbraith, of the Cobourg Legion, who was present at Cobourg’s Ontario Street bridge. “But it’s good to show support. The troops need to know that people are backing them.”
Anna Marie Cullen and her husband Karl, of Peterborough, came to Cobourg to celebrate the birth of their new grandson on Thursday, and honoured his birth by saluting Trooper Hayakaze.
“One life goes and another comes,” said Ms. Cullen.
Also on hand was Officer Bob Carson of the Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard. “I’m really patriotic that way,” he said, of his presence at the bridge. “It’s nice to see the turnout. It makes me very proud.”
God Bless Our Angel -Our Hero

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Exercise Southern Bear Ends Successfully

February 28, 2008
Camp Dona Ana, Fort Bliss, Texas

Today, after almost a month in desert-like training at Fort Bliss, Texas, Exercise Southern Bear has officially ended. The approximately 3,000 soldiers who took part in the exercise will soon be heading back to Canada.
During this month long exercise soldiers conducted Combat Team attacks, convoy training, IED training and specific training pertaining to their tasks in Afghanistan.
“I am very pleased with everything that we accomplished during our short time here,” said Colonel Dean Milner, Commander of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG). “The exceptional facilities at Fort Bliss allowed us to train in an environment that is similar to Afghanistan.”
The completion of the exercise marks another major milestone on the road to Afghanistan that began last August for many of the soldiers from Petawawa’s 2 CMBG. Aside from the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Headquarters that is scheduled to depart at the end of April, most of the soldiers training for the deployment will leave for Afghanistan during September.
“This exercise allowed us to bring together all of the Task Force elements that will deploy to Afghanistan. It helped us prepare them for the next major training event in Wainwright, Alberta during May called Exercise Maple Guardian.” added Colonel Milner. “We have done everything to make sure that the soldiers are prepared for success at Wainwright and later on in Afghanistan.”
The training at Fort Bliss was necessary to replicate the terrain in and around Kandahar Province, where these soldiers will be operating once they deploy to Afghanistan. The Task Force 3-08 Battle Group, the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, the Observer Mentor Liaison Team, the National Support Element and Joint Task Force Afghanistan Headquarters all took part in the exercise.
Congratulations to our troops! HUA! Look out.. here we come!

Tour Photos

Tours and Tourism:
A reminder to soldiers serving and having served in any mission: photographs you have taken when having served overseas are property of your squadron. They do not belong to you unless and until they have been declassified and/or released by your Major.
Showing these pictures publicly, on MySpace, on Facebook, to friends, to families, etc. compromises the security of the misssion and that of soldiers serving and preparing to serve. Their safety is in your hands - in your pictures. Please, I ask of you on behalf of our soldiers - your fellow soldiers -serving and preparing to serve in these dangerous areas, do not share, copy, publish your photos without permission. In the photos, there may be identifiers as to landmarks, vehicles, Afghan soldiers identities, villagers, etc. It is important to maintain and not breach OPSEC - Operational Security.
The Department of Defence has recently stated it's concern about photos and information about events, such as a roadside bomb attack on a Canadian convoy, making its way onto the Net. The reasoning is that computer-savvy insurgents are monitoring such sites for useful information.

The following article was written by Shelly Smith for Homeland Security:
By Shelley Smith
Great Britain’s Security Service MI5 requested its British troops to remove personal details of themselves off popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Friends Reunited due to discovering that they were being monitored by Al-Qaeda operatives. In the January, 2008 Free Republic article, ‘Al-Qaeda eyes MySpace Pages’, Gordon Thomas writes about the concern expressed by the MI5 chief Jonathan Evans in a document titled ‘Personal Security’. Evans asks for security service personnel to be aware of the monitoring and gathering of personal details that can be formed into intelligence used to launch terrorist attacks against their colleagues, or family members.Though access to many of these social websites may be for members only, all one needs to register is an e-mail address. Al-Qaeda operatives are using hundreds of false accounts to access personal information. And what are they finding? Thousands of military and security personnel who have posted detailed information about themselves, their careers, personal pictures and family members, date of birth, locations of where they are living, photos of colleagues and weapons.

In the United States Islamic extremists are utilizing technology. Radical Muslims are attempting to bring Islamic religious law into the United States and had murdered a New Jersey man and his family. Others have been victims by operatives systematically tracking individuals through and other websites. An individual who lives overseas had his computer hacked to obtain his photograph, his real name and the city where he lives, while other individuals are having their personal information being exchanged through extremist websites in order to facilitate harm. With this new wave of activities it is important to maintain OPSEC.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC), who conducts Cyber Security programs, has posted the latest Vulnerability Bulletins to share with U.S. interagency personnel.

As a mother and upon speaking with other family members, the security of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, daughters, friends are of utmost importance. Their safety is what we rely on.

Home Safe

Relieved father, Prince Charles and brother Prince William greet Prince Harry upon his return at RAF Brize Norton. Photo courtesy AP

Prince Harry is back home from mission in Afghanistan 2 months early. Why? Well read on..
Prince Harry landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where he was met by Prince Charles and Prince William. The prince's tour was cut short after a news blackout collapsed, raising fears he would be targeted by the Taliban.

Dad is relieved upon seeing his son.
The Prince of Wales said he was pleased about his son's return and praised the efforts of all armed forces personnel.
Prince Harry, 23, a second lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, was flown out from Helmand Province under orders from the Chief of Defence Staff.
The prince's deployment was subject to a news blackout in a deal struck between the MoD and newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and abroad.

Particular frustration
The agreement broke down after the story appeared on influential American website The Drudge Report.
The Ministry of Defence said the safety of Prince Harry and his colleagues had been compromised. As the soldiers arrived to collect their belongings some were greeted by Prince Charles. Later the Prince of Wales told journalists: "I feel particular frustration that he [Prince Harry] was removed unexpectedly early because - apart from anything else - he had been looking forward to coming back with the rest of his regiment."
Prince Harry was sent secretly to Afghanistan in December but was ordered out of the country by defence chiefs on Friday.
Prince Charles said he had found it "quite difficult" to keep the secret.
"People kept saying to me 'you must be so frustrated about Harry not being able to serve abroad'" He said when he was asked where Harry was, he'd reply: "He's on exercise somewhere."
The Prince of Wales said he was now more aware of the stresses and worries of families with loved-ones serving in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We owe an enormous amount to those families of servicemen who endure so much and support their loved ones with such understanding. It makes a huge difference," he said.
"I also feel very strongly that we don't often appreciate what the people in the armed forces are doing, putting up with the most impossible conditions, very often in hazardous circumstances in heat or freezing cold, being shot at or rocketed at and goodness knows what else."
He said all armed service personnel were owed "an enormous debt of gratitude for performing their duty".
Finally Prince Charles said: "I've been incredibly proud of Harry and I promise you, equally proud of all the dedicated service given by all our armed forces."
What do you think about Prince Harry's mission in Afghanistan?
Have your say.

To My Son

An email appeared in my mailbox the other day. This email came from a mother whose son has just recently left for his mission in Afghanistan. In the email was a poem that I'd like to share with you. Thank you J. God bless you and your son.

To My Son

When you were just a newborn babe
and cuddled on my shoulder,
I vowed to keep those moments in my heart
to recall, as you grew older.

At play, at school, in family life,
those years they surely flew.
I could not see what future Destiny
would have in store for you

You’ve worked, and studied, and worked some more
and now you are a man.
What Fate decrees we must abide.
We just do not know the plan.

You met each challenge as it came,
and built a life around it.
Your home, your work, and friends
have a place where each will fit.

That little boy you used to be,
now your praise is what is fitting.
You took up the call to do your part
and do your country’s biding

Your uniform, your gun,
and Maple Leaf are worn with pride,
They’ve taken you to a distant place
where menace and anger reside.

Here at home in comfort and peace
I can’t imagine the contrast,
The way you live, the things you do,
the days go by so fast.

I watch the news and read the papers
to catch a glimpse of you.
I can’t touch your hand or have you near
until this Tour is through.

Each moment of the day is filled
with thoughts of then and now.
I want to do so much for you
but am not sure just how.

I tell your tale to everyone
and they all say to me,
“We’ll pray for him, your son,
and he’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

From a Mom with love.

In My Absence

Please let me apologize for not posting for some time. Personally, I /our family had been dealing with the death of our family dog. We had her for 11 years and right from the time I had picked her up, she became one of us - our "baby girl". Just before Christmas, she had been diagnosed with cancer and we struggled with her difficult and slow demise. We spent many nights by her side, carrying her, loving her, letting her eat whatever she favoured (especially my son's gourmet spinach dip). As her legs weakened and her breath became laboured, we knew her time with us here was soon to end. She is now in heaven, awaiting for us to come home. God bless you Baby Girl. We love you. ox