Today the Canadian government acknowledged another soldier’s death while serving on the Afghanistan mission: Capt. Frank Cecil Paul, 53, a member of Ottawa’s 28 Field Ambulance. He leaves a wife and two children.
Capt. Paul actually died in February 10, 2010, at home on leave. It’s taken this long for the Canadian Armed Forces to finally do “the decent thing” in adding his death to our battle toll of 153 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan. This decision to designate his death a casualty is not only decent, it is also the correct thing to do.
What so many who criticized the decision in comments following the CBC News story do not understand is that this man, as a medic, would have dealt with some of the most horrific battle wounds ever seen in history. Stressful? Oh yeah!
The derision stated because of his weight, never mind his age, reflects an even worse ignorance shared by fellow soldiers as well as the public. You see, medics believe what they tell their deploying troops. They believe the World Health Organization when it tells them the anti-malaria drug mefloquine or Lariam (brand name) is the preferred drug to treat the most potent form of malaria, that if troops don’t take this drug and any of them catch malaria, they will die. When medics are deployed to Afghanistan, they take this drug for the same reasons they recommend it to their troops: it is the preferred drug to treat the most potent form of malaria, that if you don’t take the drug and you catch malaria, you will die.
Evidence today indicates mefloquine causes brain, liver and/or thyroid damage, and Capt. Paul, if he took mefloquine at any time in his 35-year career besides his deployment to Afghanistan, may have been overweight because his mefloquine-damaged thyroid stopped functioning properly. Maybe only in theory but it’s certainly a possibility that can no longer be ignored.
Should his weight or age been a reason to prevent him from serving in a battle area?
That’s a Department of National Defence call. But, we all need to be reminded that the Armed Forces are terribly short-staffed of medical personnel, especially those with battle experience.
Capt. Paul did what he had to do. He gave his best service and loyalty to his country and fellow soldiers because he was needed in Afghanistan. For that, he died … naturally … at home, not on the battlefield. Though his bravery was not as visible, his family surely deserves to receive the Memorial Cross on his behalf as he becomes Canada’s 153rd casualty for the Afghanistan mission since 2002.