A reviewer just commented on a blog written last year on my personal website and reminded me that so often, when vets return, no one thinks about their spouses or caregivers but they are the true heart and backbone of every vet’s mission, recovery and, for the fallen, repatriation. For this reason I am repeating THE HERO’S HEROINE originally posted March 10, 2009.
Soldier’s Widow believes in his mission in Afghanistan
Mishelle Brown, widow of Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown recently killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, would have made her husband proud. She responded to Prime Minister Harper’s comments on CNN that Canadian and other foreign armies can’t beat the Taliban.
“We may not be able to beat the Taliban. There’s lots of things in our life we can’t beat— obesity, child pornography, crime. But do you give up? Do you stop? Absolutely not,” Mishelle Brown said. “One person can’t make a difference. But if we band together, we can.”
The Globe & Mail columnist, Christie Blatchford, who like Rosie Dimano of the Toronto Star and I have witnessed our forces in action, praised Mishelle Brown for her courage and wisdom. “I thought she also landed a pre-emptive strike against those who, every time a soldier’s casket comes home, purse their lips and murmur some platitude about how sad it is, and what a waste and then ask if, you know, it’s worth it?”
You see, our troops do believe in their mission, whatever it is: Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia, Haiti, Afghanistan. It’s not a result of brain washing. It’s because they are the boots on the ground taking action and seeing the difference they make. Canada’s General Romeo Dallaire didn’t abandon the Rwandans when the UN ordered him out because he was a decent man defending decent people who were being slaughtered for no reason other than being born who they were. And he abhored genocide.
As a reservist, Mishelle’s husband and the father of four was a special constable with the Niagara Regional Police. He fought to get time off from his job to serve in Afghanistan. He told her: “If we don’t get them [terrorists] in their backyard, they’re sure to get us in ours.”
As Christie comments about the protestors of the war in Afghanistan, who poo-hoo the sincerity of Mishelle’s affirmation of her husband’s proud devotion to duty: “…to do otherwise is to say their loved one died in vain. This is but a version of the belief, widespread among the elite, that they know better than soldiers themselves what’s good for soldiers, the plain inference that soldiers aren’t so bright or informed.”
I found our soldiers highly read and well-informed; some were educated while others were street-smart self-learners. During my tour with them, from private to commanding officer, I enjoyed intelligent conversations. I valued them as people and as friends and felt closer to them than to some of my family. I certainly trusted them more.
In response to those who want to pull our troops out of Afghanistan, retired General Lewis Mackenzie said in his Globe & Mail column that Prime Minister Harper was not making a political statement when he said we can’t beat the Taliban. He stated a fact. “Insurgencies rarely totally disappear. The objective is to reduce them to a manageable scale where they have little impact on the day-to-day lives of the victim country’s population. Much like organized crime in a large American city – or, for that matter, a Canadian city, given the influence of street gangs in the past decade. Violent crime exists, and there are areas in some cities you should avoid; but the level of crime does not cause the average citizen to ask: ‘For safety’s sake, perhaps the better option is to join the bad guys.’
“The objective in a counterinsurgency is to isolate the insurgents from the support they coerce from the general population through fear and intimidation and to cause their influence to be irrelevant. While the military has a key role to play in achieving this isolation, opportunistic and even frequent victories over the insurgents will not, on their own, guarantee ‘victory’.”
Mishelle Brown directed her closing remarks as much to the country as to her husband’s comrades. “Keep your chin up. Remember what you had.”
We all need to remember: without the dedication of our troops, we would not enjoy the freedom to debate whether we do bring them home or not.