2016 & 2017: The Hard Years

Last year was hard. No sense putting a made-up pretty face on it, or calling a spade a diamond: physically, emotionally, and situationally, 2016 was a hard year.
I gained some of the weight I lost in 2015 back – not eating properly, not being motivated, and seeking emotional solace in food all played their own roles. I spent 6 solid months separated from my husband, which meant 6 months being a single mother. I shared a bedroom with a non-sleeping toddler for nearly 5 cumulative months of the year. I made the difficult decision to go back to work after 5 long years of recovery. I took on new volunteer positions without shedding the old ones. I began a part-time direct sales business. And honestly, travelling over the Christmas season is no way to finish an already trying year.
And this year has started in the same way. MiniSir will be deployed this year – yet another long separation for us. I have secured a job and day care for Grunt, and now we are just waiting on my official start date. We bought a new car, anticipating a future that the Army has now changed on us (again). And all those volunteer positions? I can’t seem to shake them.
So while I prepare to be a newly working single mum, dealing with what little spare time I have being eaten up by committees, I have to wonder some days if strength comes from simply doing.
I walk now because I refused to believe I couldn’t walk then. I bore a child because I refused to believe I was infertile. I have been alone, alone and pregnant, alone with a child, and I have been strong enough to do all this because I refused to give up on what needed to be done. So.
This year I will be employed, and Mummy, and alone. And I will be strong. I will do what needs to be done. And I will be here for others in the same place when they think they can’t.
Some days I will need reminded of my own strength, and some days others will be the ones needing reminded. On days when I can give of myself, I will. On days when I need you to give me a little of the strength back, I hope you will.

The Medal and The Photo

MiniSir and I attended a gala last weekend on behalf of the Regiment. It was a very fancy affair – hosted in the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald’s Empire Ballroom, which looks like a set from Marie Antoinette. The supermoon made the river valley look silvered and beautiful, the free champagne was flowing, and the music was rocking. It was an excellent evening.

We sat at a table with other soldiers and their spouses, and as I looked around the table, I noted, despite the plethora or dearth of medals, everyone had one specific one; everyone but my husband. Which I mentioned to him, being completely unaware of what it was.

“That’s the CD (Canadian Forces Decoration).” He muttered with a pained smile. “I don’t have one because I don’t have enough time in yet.”

For those that may not know, you need to have 12 years “in” to receive your CD; something that, if you’re a Major, is so common that the joke is to not trust one without that medal. And yet here he is, being an exception to the rule. Ask any soldier under him, and they will tell you that the joke (at least in this case) is completely inappropriate.

And yet the pained smile when I mentioned it.

MiniSir likes to say he hasn’t done “a lot of stuff” with the Army. He will tell you he hasn’t if you ask. He is wrong when he does.

Nothing makes that more obvious that the photo he received this morning as a gift. This photo was taken this past Remembrance Day at the gravesite of one of the soldiers killed on MiniSir’s tour. In this photo, 5 men stand together to remember their fallen comrade. They are smiling. There is beer on the grave. And Nathan’s spirit is with them.

This photo was taken, enlarged, framed, and gifted to him by one of the wives of the other men there. I cannot express how much having it means to him, and how touched he was in receiving it. But the man who always says he doesn’t do “much” messaged me this morning, told me about the gift, and then expressed a desire to make a collage of photos for his office wall. Because this gift made him realize that, even without his CD, he has still done some amazing, sad, wonderful things, and he has the friends to prove it.

He has so much more than shiny brass – he is surrounded by people who will tell him he’s valued, and help him remember his worth. Which is way better than a silly medal.

Darkness? It’s Me, Krista

I don’t like where my mind goes at night. Those deep, dark hours after midnight when I’m still lying in bed, exhausted but unable to drift off. That’s the time when it always strikes me: the irrational thoughts and anxious fear.

I fight them off, one at a time. Usually it is a terrible fate befalling someone I love – more often than not involving my dear Grunt. Opening my eyes, taking in my surroundings, consciously breathing through it, repeating “Not real, not real” aloud, only really alleviates the current thought spiral. As soon as I close my eyes it’s back down another rabbit hole filled with great and awful things, grabbing at me with their tentacles of persuasion.

The only thing that stops them is getting up, getting out of bed and forcing myself to move and think in the now. My first stop is always Grunt’s room, to place a hand on his back and feel him breathe. He is safe again – he always is. Next I head downstairs to boil the kettle and find some sleepy time tea. It doesn’t really help, but it’s warm and the act of drinking it is calming, so I steep it twice. Wrapping myself in my warmest couch blanket, I hop onto my computer for at least a two-hour Pinterest session. I have to keep my mind of off anything remotely important, and Pinterest certainly has a way of sucking you into a world of DIY you love but will never do, and adorable fan art drawings of your favourite Disney characters. Add some of whatever snack food is in my pantry and there’s my remedy for insomnia.

I can usually get to sleep after this, snuggling in against MiniSir to warm up after being out of bed. But when he’s not home, it’s harder to get past that sleep threshold. Bunnydict Carrotpatch doesn’t talk much, and though his ears are velvety soft, stroking them still doesn’t soothe me the way a shifting-in-his-sleep-to-hold-you husband would.

I remember nearly flipping my sleep schedule when MiniSir was deployed to the Alberta floods a few years ago – up all night, sleeping only when daylight peeked into the bedroom so I could see that there were no fears hiding in the shadows. Now I’m a mummy, and I don’t have that luxury any more; there is a tiny person that needs my help growing into the best big person he can be. So the scant few hours of sleep I manage have to do, at least until nap time when we can both lie down again. For the same reason, I hesitate to take that extra dose of medication my psychiatrist said I could safely take, as it makes me very dopey and thus it is harder to wake up with the baby in the mornings. Alcohol and the pills make it even worse – even with one beer at dinner, I find I have difficulty hearing the baby at all, which isn’t good for me, or for Grunt, who still wakes at least once or twice a night.

And so I drink tea. And eat Jammy Dodgers. And “pin” journal ideas and knitting patterns and artistic inspiration for things I’ll never draw because I don’t think I’m good enough to even try them. And then maybe, just maybe, I may have quieted the demons enough to get some sleep.

Another Dirty Word

Something weird happened to me yesterday. I sat down, slouching into the soft couch, to watch one of Grunt’s favourite shows with him. At one point, he climbed into my lap and I looked down to make sure he was going to get comfortable in a way that wouldn’t hurt me either.

And then I realized: I can see my legs. Not just my legs, but the tops of them. And not just the tops, but I can the rest of my body underneath my tummy. Somewhere along the way of losing weight and getting more active, I actually got thinner than I remember being in a long time.

This is an important milestone for several reasons. Since puberty, I have had this annoying large stomach that protruded over my lower abdomen, the tell-tale mark of someone with PCOS. It has only gotten more prominent since having Grunt, as I carried him very high. And since my accident, I have had a much larger behind, thanks to all that fluid that stuck around the injured areas because of the nerve damage done. So, when I look in the mirror sideways, all I see are these two problem areas; my torso gets lost somewhere in the middle.

In 2015, MiniSir and I decided we were going to get healthy – lose weight, eat better, take care of ourselves a little more. The previous 4 years had been a cluster of serious, terrible, and exciting things; a time in our lives we could not forget even if we wanted to. But 2015 we chose to start fresh, and give Grunt positive role models right at home. We purchased pedometers, started counting calories, watching portion sizes, and intensely meal planning. MiniSir started exercising right away, and his weight melted off. He has since managed to successfully lose over 50 pounds. Exercise has always left a dirty taste in my mouth, so I focused on being active with Grunt and trying to hit my 10000 steps a day. It was easier said than done, but by the end of the year, I had lost nearly 40 pounds.

We found as we got doing it that it felt good. We enjoyed it, and it helped us keep our grocery costs and food waste to a minimum. Helping ourselves and helping the planet? Okay! We decided to purchase home exercise equipment for our joint Christmas gift – we had a friend looking to off-load his and we were given a great price. So now we have a treadmill and a recumbent bike, and since MiniSir is a runner, you can guess which one was for me.

I was reluctant to start seriously exercising – what if I hurt something, what if I made it worse, what if what if. Finally, I made up my mind to try without judgment, and I got on the recumbent bike and pedalled. The next day, I got on it again. And the next. Throw in a little yoga once or twice a week, and suddenly you know how I’ve been spending my time while Grunt naps since the start of the year.

Some days I just can’t even, and I still get on the bike. Today, for example. I’m biking and writing this blog. I have no qualms about multi-tasking, and if this helps me feel better about time I spend on me, then it’s a win-win. I can only bike for about a half hour before my back and pelvis tell me I’ve done enough, but I can work up a sweat in that time which tells me I have indeed done what I came to do.

I’m hungrier, downright starving some days. Last week I ate supper and then an hour later I had a bowl of oatmeal and almond milk. But I feel good when I’m hungry – it means I need the fuel.

So maybe exercise still sounds like a dirty word to me. And maybe I hide my scale in my closet so I don’t obsess over my weight. Maybe I’m taking anti-depressants still to help me sleep.

But you know what else I am doing? I’m kicking that bulletproof, armoured bank truck right in the ass.

You can’t beat me, truck. What didn’t kill me has made me infinitely stronger: physically, mentally, emotionally.

Bring it.

2016: A Year of Reaping


Happy 2016, everyone! I just know in my heart that this is the Year of Krista, and I am looking forward to making the most of it.

We could call last year “The Road to High Readiness”, in true army fashion. It saw a lot of ups and downs, for me and our little family.

We all started the year off with terrible colds, and I managed to get lice, an eye infection, and a lung infection on top of that over the holidays. Grunt decided he would start furniture walking as soon as I got sick, too, and became much more mobile while I attempted to get better. The constant barrage of demands from the condo board and MiniSir’s trip to Europe in March nearly did me in as I tried to be a mum, a home owner, and run the condo board all by myself.

But… we celebrated Easter in Walt Disney World and had a wonderful underwater-themed first birthday party for Grunt when we arrived back home.

We put the house on the market right as the price of oil collapsed, and nearly sold it twice only to have the buyer unable to get financing. I hired a management company for our condos, and struggled through our piece-meal finances with their accountant to get our books in order.

But… MiniSir got promoted, and we celebrated with the champagne he brought back from France. We had family visiting us in June, July, and August, and in between we had a whirlwind trip to Ontario.

MiniSir went to fight fires in Saskatchewan, but then we visited Banff and Lake Louise for the first time on an epic road trip, and it seemed like maybe we were finally getting ready to relax into fall.

And then my PTSD, depression, and anxiety all made a comeback and I’m back on medication to help me cope.

But… MiniSir completed an amazing “rugged” marathon called Mountain Man, a result of his hard work, training, and the loss of 50 pounds. He also got great career news and now we know we will be here in Edmonton for at least another 4 years.Grunt started walking and talking. The condo board took on new members and it now feels like we are a team instead of a one-woman show. I have lost nearly 40 pounds, with just a couple stubborn ones left to reach my goal weight. And we celebrated Christmas here, together: our little family with matching pjs in our little house.

Honestly, looking back, I can see the ups and see the downs, see the curveballs life has thrown at us and see the gifts. I wish for nothing more in the new year than for 2016 to hold more gifts than disappointments. I sowed many seeds last year, and I’m ready to reap the rewards. If I close my eyes and dream, I can see them all lying out on the path ahead of me. I know this year will be mine, and I’m ready for it.

From our home to yours: Happy New Year, and may your unexpected gifts be numerous!


Last week I posted about never missing that “teachable moment”. And well, when it comes to Canada’s military, I get all fired up. So in a typical Whimsy-esque act of overdoing it, I vowed I would write a Twitter essay to educate the  social media generation in 140 characters or less about the entire military history of Canada.

Today is Remembrance Day. And every day for the last week, I have been sharing why this day is so important. But, because I know that Twitter isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, I saved my transcript. Today, I will publish it here.

A preface: it will be overwhelming. It will be thought provoking. It will make you ask yourself why you didn’t know that some of these things had happened. And I firmly hope it makes you jump onto Wikipedia and spend the entire afternoon looking up articles on our history, because Canada is born from what I’ve written below. Without all of this, our great country would not exist.

So please don’t skip over the hard parts. Please start conversations with others. Please ask questions. And please, please, feel gratitude in your hearts for what our soldiers have given to our country.

Lest We Forget.

Wed Nov 4 — —

Beaver Wars (1660s) Iroquois (Eng) vs Huron et al (Fr); brutal, considered one of the bloodiest series of conflicts in history of NA

Battle of Quebec (1690) Fr vs Eng; Siege of QC City by Eng; leads to Fr improving QC City defences; loss of 1000+ Eng soldiers in retreat

Battle of La Prairie (1691) Eng va Fr; Eng try to take Montreal from south; repelled with sig. casualties; site now a Natl Historic Site

King William’s War (1688-97) NA theatre of 9 Yrs War; Treaty of Reswick reasserts Fr ctrl over L Can; Iroquois neutral in all conflict after

King George’s War (1744-48) Fr vs Eng; Eng capture Louisbourg; losses = 8% of Mass. adult male pop. of time; sign Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle

Battle of Carillon (1758) Eng vs Fr; 3000 casualties; Eng defeat hampers relations with Indian allies; modern flag of QC based on Fr banner

French & Indian War (1760) Eng vs Fr; Eng gains ctrl of QC province; QC Act of 1774 gives land & civil rights back to Canadians living in QC

Battle of Quebec (1775) Eng vs US; first major defeat for US during Revolutionary War; leads Carlton to punish US sympathizers in QC

Battle of Trois-Rivieres (1776) Eng vs US; last battle in QC  during Rev War; forces US off Can soil; Eng win with half # of troops as US

Thurs Nov 5 — —

War of 1812 (1812-15) UK & NA allies vs US; US declares war on UK, with NA and surrounding waters as theatre; notable Can battles include…

Battle of Queenston Heights (1812) UK & NA vs US; death of Gen Brock and heavy US losses; unsuccessful US landing on Can soil

Battle of Frenchtown (1813) UK & NA vs US; fight @ Fort Detroit ends up w/ most losses in war; Can militia stand w/o support of UK regulars

Battle of York (1813) UK & Can vs US; US capture York, push UK to Kingston in retreat; leaving Can militia behind to continue fight

Battle of the Chateauguay (1813) UK & Can & Mohawk vs US; US plan invasion of Can via St Lawrence; Can local militia turn tide of war

Battle of Crysler’s Farm (1813) UK & Can vs US; 1st major battle to be commemorated by Can army regiments; causes US to abandon St Lawrence

Battle of Lundy’s Lane (1814) UK & Can vs US; deadliest battle of war; US fall back to Fort Erie; battle mentioned in The Maple Leaf Forever

War ends w/ Treaty of Ghent; 3000+ US slaves escape, settle in NS & NB; wins of Can militia create sense of Can nationalism, military might

Fri Nov 6 ——

Rebellions of 1837; Can & US vs Rebels; uprisings for political reform lead to Province of Canada forming; leaders incl Papineau & Mackenzie

Crimean War (1853-56) NS join forces with Fr & UK; 1st Can Victoria Cross to Alexander Robert Dunn for actions @ Battle of Balaklava

Indian Rebellion (1857-58) Can joins with UK; end of East India Cpy; William Nelson Hall, 1st black Can, Victoria Cross @ Siege of Lucknow

Fenian Raids (1866-71) Irish US seek to pressure UK withdrawl from Ireland by raiding into Can; all raids fail; however, there is 1 defeat…

Battle of Ridgeway (1866) Can vs Irish US; 1st fought exclusively by Can troops & officers; defeat galvanizes support for Confederacy of Can

Fenian Raids 1st time Can modern troops KIA – Toronto’s Queens Own still exist today; militia across new country take efforts to improve

Red River Rebellion (1869-70) Can vs Metis; Red River Colony enters Can as MB; 1st Can military action @ home as Wolseley Expedition sent

North-West Rebellion (1885) Can vs Metis; trial of Riel = tension b/w Fr & Eng Can; CPR plays key role moving troops, new support for rail

Nile Expedition (1884-85) 368 Voyageurs volunteer for UK army; 1st time Can military force overseas; 16 die on mission, considered war dead

2nd Boer War (1899-1902) Can troops assist Eng in S Africa; 1st 1000 RCR soldiers sent; more join, incl privately raised Strathcona’s Horse

Cans win acclaim in war; of 8600 volunteers, 7400 Cans incl nurses serve in S Africa by end of war; several soldiers receive Victoria Cross

Between Boer War & WWI (1903-04) Can officially establishes reg military corps; Can reg navy created in 1910 to support UK Royal Navy

Note: Can officially considers Nov 11 as #RemembranceDay for Second Boer War and later. Was Jun 2, “Decoration Day” for 1st Can war heroes.

Decoration Day acknowledged Canadian fallen @ Battle of Ridgeway, Northwest Rebellion, the 2nd Boer War, and WWI. In 1931… [1/2]

Remembrance Day Act = Nov 11 as Can’s official memorial day, expels casualties of Ridgeway & NW Rebellion from nat’l memorialization [2/2]

Sat Nov 7 — —

Aug 4 1914 UK enters WWI, bringing Can automatically into war Can Expeditionary Force (CEF) raised for overseas service, mostly volunteer

Recruitment was difficult among Fr Can except for Royal 22nd Regt (“Van Doos”); eventually CEF is 293 battalions & # of ancillary units

The Can Corps formed 1915; 4 infantry div, main fighting force of CEF; Can Cavalry Bde also in France; support troops incl railway & forest

2nd Battle of Ypres (1915) Allies vs Ger; 1st engagement of 1st Can Division; 1 in 3 casualties w/ Can losses 6000+ [1/5]

Can troops hold line against 1st chlorine gas attack of the war; counterattacks used urine soaked rags to counteract effects [2/5]

Cans get rep 4 guts & determination; Arthur Currie, Bde Comd, distinguishes himself; 1st colonial force defeat Euro power on Euro soil [3/5]

LCol John Alexander McCrae writes “In Flanders Fields” during this battle; first pub Dec 1915, now recited each year on Nov 11 [4/5]

Battle of Frezenberg (May 195) Can (PPCLI) vs Ger; 700 men to 150 wounded; motto “Last of the Originals” comes from this action [5/5]

Battle of the Somme (1916); Allies vs Ger; 1 of largest battles in WWI; 1 mil KIA or wounded; most Royal Nfld Reg killed 1st day [1/3]

4 Can Divs participating by Sep; Mark 1 Tank 1st appears in battle; psych impact on Ger soldiers causes many to surrender immediately [2/3]

Can Corp suffers 25000 casualties in final phase; dev signif’t exp in tactical doctrine, infantry & artillery, & leadership under fire [3/3]

Battle of Vimy Ridge (1917); Can vs Ger; 1st time Can Corps attacks as 1 under Can only leadership; tactical victory; offensive nets… [1/4]

More land, prisoners & arms than any previous offensive; main tactic was creeping barrage, artillery strike w/ infantry progression [2/4]

BGen Edward Morrison developed artillery instruction for battle, still used today; 4 Cans receive Victoria Cross; Vimy Ridge… [3/4]

Widely maintained as start of Can nat’l identity and unity; Vimy Memorial in France largest Can overseas war memorial [4/4]

Battle of Passchendaele (1917) Can vs Ger; Can Corps relieve II Anzac Corps; battle obj to recapture town; all Can Divs participate [1/3]

Front manned by 3&4 Can Div, replaced by 1&2 Can Div b4 final assault; success gained on Nov 11 1917; cost Can Corps 15+K casualties [2/3]

9 Victoria Crosses awarded for battle; all 9 go to Cans for their actions; Memorial located in France at Passchendaele village [3/3]

Battle of Moreuil Wood (1918) Can vs Ger; Can Cavalry Bde ordered to secure woods on horseback & sabre against Ger machine guns [1/2]

Lt Gordon Flowerdew earns Victoria Cross posthumously; 2 in 3 LdSH mounted troops perish; last great cavalry charge of modern warfare [2/2]

100 Days Offensive (1918) Allies vs Ger; Battles of Amiens, Arras, Hindenberg Line, Canal du Nord, Cambrai; Can Corps suffers 46K losses

Last soldier KIA @ WWI is George Lawrence Price, Canadian, 2 mins before armistice takes place on Nov 11 @ 11am

Royal Can Navy consists of 4 ships & 2 subs; only ship lost in war is HMHS Llandovery Castle, a hospital ship, sunk by Ger U-boat

HMCS Niobe damaged Dec 1917 Halifax Explosion; wartime explosives on way to front create largest man-made explosion ever; losses = 2K dead

WWI catalyst for creation of RCAF; Can Aviation Corps formed for WWI, assumed by Can gov’t as CAF but disbanded by 1921

Britain encourages Can peacetime air force, & RCAF created 1924 to handle all flying operations in Can, incl military & civil ops

At home, Can starts conscription; of 120K raised, only 47K sent; women gain right to vote; Fr vs Eng Can tensions run high; election in 1917

The Great War establishes Can as a military force to be reckoned with; short skirmishes b/w WWI & II incl Russian Civil & Spanish Rev Wars

Sun Nov 8 — —

Can enters WWII w/ declaration of war against Ger on Sep 10 1939; CAF small, poorly equipped, & unprepared for war

Gov’t war policy = RCAF 1st Cans overseas; Defence prioritized 4 Pacific; originally limited to 1 Div & 1 Div for home defence; CAF exceeds

Over course of war, army enlisted 730,000; air force 260,000; & navy 115,000; also, 1000s of Cans served in RAF

Battle of France (1940) Can support incl 7 naval destroyers sent to Eng Channel, 60M rounds of ammo, 75K Ross rifles

Battle of Britain/The Blitz (1940) b/w 88-112 Canadian pilots served in the RAF; most went Britain on their own initiative

No 1 Sqn RCAF join Jun 1940; by Oct end of battle 23 Can pilots are killed; 1 Can Corps deploy to S of Eng

Can navy & troops defend Nfld; occupy Iceland 1940-41; play crucial role in Battle of Atlantic; RCN take 52 U-boats in Atlantic by end

Axis U-Boats did get into Can waters; 5 attacks on Can vessels recorded, 2 attacks on mainland Can coast (Bell Is & Vancouver Is)

1000s of Can also served w/ Can Merchant Navy as volunteers, providing supplies & munitions to fronts along the Atlantic

Battle of Hong Kong (1941) JP vs Allies; JP violates intl law to attack; met w/ UK, Can & Indian troops; Allies surrender [1/3]

Afterward Japanese rape & massacre POWs & civilians; 1528 Allied dead; 1689 Can POWs incl Drs & nurses [2/3]

CSM John Robert Osborn gets Victoria Cross posthumously for throwing himself on grenade, saving 10 Can troops [3/3]

Battle of Dieppe (1942) Allies vs Ger; 5000 Cans go in; 3367 Cans KIA, wounded or captured; Almost no battle objectives met [1/2]

RAF failed to lure Luftwaffe into battle; RN lost 33 landing craft, 1 destroyer; events prepare Allies for NAfrica & Normandy landings [2/2]

Invasion of Italy (1943) Op Baytown = 1 Can Div lands @ Cape Spartivento; 1 Can Armoured Bde joins in Sherman tanks; [1/4]

In constant demand by UK Comd, Can plays important role in advance N through Italy; Battles incl Potenza, Termoli, Ortona, Melfa River [2/4]

Moro River, Sicily, Arno River, Lake Trasimeno, Gari River, Hitler Ln, Gustav Ln; longest & widest service of any Bde in CAF in WWII [3/4]

3 Victoria Crosses awarded to Can troops in Italy; Invasion of Sicily 1st time since WWI Can troops had full scale combat engagement [4/4]

Battle of Juno Beach (1944) D-Day; 3 Can Div & 2 Can Armoured Bde land infantry; RCAF & RCN support; first mins of raid prove costly [1/5]

3 Can Infantry Div led by MGen Rod Keller was assigned 6 miles of beach, incl villages of Courseulles & Bernieres [2/5]

RCN = 121 vessels to D-Day armada; RAF & RCAF = 2434 fighter & fighter-bombers w/ 700 light/med bombers to support [3/5]

3 Can Infantry Div suffer >1000 casualties of <2000 predicted; despite failure to capture any final D-Day objectives, Juno still… [4/5]

Considered 1 of most strategic successful of landings; 1 Sherman tank that landed & fought into Ger is now preserved in QC [5/5]

Battle of the Scheldt (1944) 1st Can Army clears port of Antwerp at great cost to open supply route to Allies; Can takes 41K Ger prisoners

Liberation of Netherlands (1945) RCE instrumental in river crossings; Arnhem defended by 1K men; town is burnt shell when Allies take it

However, as Allies march through Netherlands, they save many Dutch from near-starvation conditions & are remembered as heroes

120K tulip bulbs were gifted to Can by the Dutch for Can efforts in WWII; they represent peace, freedom & int’l friendship

To this day, Ottawa yearly receives 10K bulbs from the Dutch Royal family & can be viewed by the public at the Tulip Festival each spring

Can participate in final Invasion of Ger (Battle of the Bulge, Aachen, Remagen); 3 Can Victoria Crosses earned here; 50K Cans fight in D-Day

Can pop. 1939 = 11.5M; 1.1M Cans serve in WWII; in all, 45K died, 55K wounded; After, Can adopts policy of multilateralism with Allies [1/2]

This affects Can’s participation in wars despite allies being engaged, notably Vietnam and Iraq; Can lends indirect support instead [2/2]

Mon Nov 9 — —

Can maintains 4CMBG in Ger as part of NATO commitments (1950s-90s); close to full strength in event of Warsaw Pact invasion

RCAF establishes 1 Air Div in early 50s to meet Can’s NATO air defence commitments in Europe; rest of country demobilizes forces

Korean War (1950-53) Can needs months to bring forces up to strength; Can troops arrive in theatre 1951, with 1st Commonwealth Div

Aug 1950, 2 PPCLI created for Can Army Special Force to Korea; 1st Can infantry unit to take part; in all, 8500 Can troops committed

Fighting concentrated on small area N of Seoul; Can war front was 30 miles across; most combat took place in this zone

Cans 2 main adversaries were NKorea and China; Op Killer = 900 PPCLI, in winter, take hill 419 from Chinese; 10 PPCLI KIA, 20+ wounded

Battle of Kapyong (1951) 2 PPCLI & Aussie troops vs entire Chinese 118th Div; Cans call artillery on own positions to avoid being overrun

Battle devolved to bayonet charges, hand-to-hand combat; air drops of supplies were called in; Can losses = 10 KIA, 23 wounded

After Kapyong, PPCLI transfer to 25th Can Infantry Bde, rotate w/ Van Doos, RCR, LdSH (RC), RCHA at the front; units of RCAMC also rotate

3 RCN destroyers sent first, 8 ships overall; in Korean waters 1950-55; only Can naval casualties when Iroquois hit during patrol

RCAF heavily involved transporting supplies & personnel during war; 600 trans-Pacific flights flown; RCAF suffered no losses

Can troops in Korea = 27K; 516 KIA; 1558 overall Can casualties; often called “Forgotten War” in comparison to WWI & II

Can govt merges RCAF, RCN, and Can Army to form CAF (1964-68); October Crisis (1970) 1st domestic terror crisis; 12500 troops deploy in QC

Vietnam War (1955-75) Can did not officially fight in Vietnam but 30K Cans volunteers w/ US Army; 110 Cans KIA, 7 remain MIA

Oka Crisis (1990) Mohawk land claim = 2500 QC reg force & reserve troops deployed @ Oka & Montreal. Op Salon ends w/ no shots fired

Gulf War (1990-91) Op Friction = 4500 CF troops; RCN, RCAF in Qatar, CF Joint HQ in Bahrain, 1st Can Field Hospital @ Al-Qaysumah

3 RCN destroyers performed escort duties; Can tankers supplied fuel; Can Sea King helicopters = recon, mine ops, air-to-ship, & other tasks

RCAF provided combat air patrols in N & Central Persian Gulf, air-to-ground bombing missions, sorties, air-to-air refuel

1 Can Field Hospital, Petawawa, deployed to join UK forces but only operated for 2 wks before hostilities ceased

Can suffers no loss of life during the conflict but many veterans suffer from Gulf War syndrome, the cause of which cannot be determined

CF part of UNPROFOR, in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina in the 1990s; Op Medak Pocket sees 2PPCLI act as buffer b/w Serb & Croat armies [1/3]

Medak Pocket = “Can’s secret battle”; skews public perception of “peacekeeping” at time; Can hadn’t fought full-scale battle in 40 yrs [2/3]

2PPCLI awarded Comd-in-Chief Unit Commendation for actions at Medak Pocket, 1st ever Can unit presented with this [3/3]

UNOSOM I during Somali Civ War (1992-95); CF Op Deliverance involved 1400 troops; humanitarian mission ends poorly [1/2]

Can troops torture Somali teen to death, resulting in Can Airborne Regt disbanding, firings in DND & poor CF reputation at home [2/2]

UNAMIR (1993-96)in Rwanda; MGen Romeo Dallaire commands during genocide; difficult period for UNAMIR as mandate = restrictive overseeing

Dallaire repeatedly attempts to establish peace b/w Hutu & Tutsi; reduced to bystander role; manages to provide refuge for… [1/2]

1000s Tutsi & Hutu moderates in Amahoro Stadium HQ; also assists with evacuation of foreign natls [2/2]

Over 400 Can soldiers serve w/ UNAMIR; MGen Guy Tousignant also commands during this period; 1 Can dies while serving

Red River Flood (1997) 9K Can troops sent to MB to help w/ evac & engineering; largest single troop deployment since Korea

NAmerica Ice Storm (1998) Op Recuperation = 16K troops to ON, QC, & NB to aid in emergency services, road recovery & evac

Tues Nov 10 — —

Can joins US-led attack on Afghanistan (2001) in response to 9/11 attacks, intended to defeat Taliban govt & rout Al-Qaeda

Op Apollo (2001-03) 40 JTF2 sent Dec 01, reg forces arrive Kandahar Jan 02; IRF consists of 750 3PPCLI, LdSH(RC), 1 Svc Bn

Op Apollo also sees RCAF send 200 personnel for recce & air support; RCN maintains small but hardworking presence in Persian Gulf

3PPCLI BG serves 6 mths overseas; Cpl Rob Furlong makes longest distance sniper kill ever: over 2400m during mountain patrols in Paktia

Cans responsible initially for providing security @ Kandahar & airport; later, tasks range from airfield security to combat

Op Harpoon under LCol @PatStogran destroys several cave bunkers in same region Mar 02; 3PPCLI BG returns to camp @ Kandahar

Apr 02 US drops bomb on Tarnak Farm, designated training area S of Kandahar; 4 3PPCLI KIA, 8 wounded;1st Can deaths in Afghanistan

Op Torii (May 02) 3 day intl task force op in Tora Bora incl 400 Cans; mission was to find Taliban & Al-Qaeda caves & destroy them

Zobol Province (Jun/Jul 02) sweep recovers several rockets, fosters relations with governor, & provides humanitarian aid to locals

3PPCLI BG returns to Can Jul 02; RCAF & RCN continue providing support for Op Apollo to Aug 03 when refocused to Op Athena

CF forces move to Kabul in N to command ISAF; Op Athena’s 1900 Cans provided assistance to civi infrastructure: well digging, bldg repair

3 Bn RCR deploys as 1st roto of Task Force Kabul; primary objective was ensuring safe conduct of 04’s 1st democratic Afghan election

2005 = Can announces doubling of # of troops in Afghanistan by summer, coincides w/ move back to volatile Kandahar; Op Athena ends

Op Archer starts Feb 06; part of US military cmd; Task Force Afghanistan BG = 2300 Can soldiers in Kandahar, extending commitment by 2 yrs

Jul 06 ISAF assumes control of S and Can Task Force BG transferred back to ISAF control; change after record # of Taliban attacks in spring

Cans become caught in middle of forces massing in Kandahar & Helmand; Op Mountain Thrust (May-Aug 06) NATO led attempt to quell Taliban

Coalition forces meet Taliban 16x in 3 mth period; 1st Battle of Panjwaii = Can suffers 1st female combat arms casualty Capt Nichola Goddard

1st Panjwaii also claims lives of 4 other Cans, Cpl Bryce Keller receiving Medal of Military Valour posthumously, 1 of 2 awarded 4 Panjwaii

Battle of The White Schoolhouse (06) two separate battles, both deadly for Can forces; 4 dead on 1st attempt; 5 on 2nd; 30+ wounded

1RCR replaces PPLCI for Op Medusa ,Sep 06; fighting leads to 2nd Battle of Panjwaii; Can forces spearhead Op again; 5 KIA, 30 wounded

After major combat ceases, reconstruction begins, rebuilding “The Road to Panjwaii” becomes equally deadly effort for Cans

Following Panjwaii, Can govt commits Sqd of Leo C2 tanks from LdSH(RC) & additional 200-500 troops; w/ newly arrived tanks… [1/2]

Cans launch Op Falcon Summit, Zhari; massive Can arty & tank barrages clear Taliban resistance; begin deadly task of Road to Panjwaii [2/2]

2RCR BG arrives Feb 07 to Kandahar; Jul 07 3 Bn R22R GB w/ support from 5 CMBG and LdSH(RC) conduct ops on the ground

New rotation emphasizes clearing-holding-building efforts in Panjwaii & Zhari, protecting Arghandab & Spin Boldak

Feb 08 Van Doos replaced by another PPCLI BG; Can gov’t extends mission again into 2011, setting firm pullout date

Can troops remained active in Panjwaii & Kandahar, Zhari & Daman districts; FOB Masum Ghar served as BOO for Can’s tank sqns

Other ISAF installations w/ Can presence incl Nathan Smith, Frontenac, Martello, Sperwan Ghar, Spin Boldak, Zettelmeyer… [1/2]

Wilson, Camp Gecko, Wolf, Warehouse, Julien, Black Horse & Strong Points N, S & W in Arghandab; 1 Bn R22R marks final roto before withdrawal

3PPCLI had begun training 400 Afghan Natl Army recruits for Op Moshtarak, ISAF pacification offensive in Marjah, as early as 09

Battle of Marjah (2010) key test of coalition strategy against Taliban; Can focus is air assault w/ Chinook & Griffon helicopters

By 2010, Can troops focused on training Afghan Natl Army & Police; Op Attention officially takes place in Kabul b/w 2011-2014

Mar 15 2014 completed the 12 yr mission in Afghanistan w/ last 84 soldiers withdrawing; flag lowering ceremony held in Kabul

During the war, another key element of Can Ops was the KPRT, 330+ CF personnel, RCMP & civilians tasked to rebuild Kandahar

Afghan police & military were retrained, agriculture improved; architecture rebuilt; KRPT transferred to US cmd in 2011 as withdraw begins

RCN became part of US CTF 150 for maritime patrol & enforcement near Afghanistan (03-08); Cans also part of UNAMA, or Op Accius

From Feb 02 – Mar 14, 158 Can soldiers KIA in support of war in Afghanstan; 2000+ soldiers were injured, countless more suffer PTSD

Battle honours have been bestowed on units of RCN, Can Army, and RCAF; # of units recognized with Comd-in-Chief’s Unit Commendation [1/2]

Units = 1 Bn RCR, 1 Bn PPCLI, 3 Bn PPCLI, & 3 Bn R22R; Calgary Highlanders = CF Unit Commendation 4 contributing < any reserve unit [2/2]

“Afghanistan” theatre honour = 2 units RCN, 65 units Can Army, 4 units RCAF, 1 unit JTF2; “Arabian Sea” honour = 15 RCN vessels

While in Afghanistan, CF also deploys 2600+ troops to BC for Op Peregrine (2003) wildfire aid; CF officers in US participate Iraq inv (2003)

RCN & RCAF assets deploy to NATO Op Mobile in Libya (2011); RCAF aids NATO in Mali (2013); 24 JTF2 secure Can embassy in Bamako

Recently, Can troops have deployed to Kuwait, Ukraine & Syria to aid UN/NATO efforts; currently 60K+ CAF members serving every day

1 final interesting fact: no CF soldier has been awarded a Victoria Cross since 1945; their valour may be undecorated but never unnoticed

Thank you to all that serve: @CanadianForces @CanadianArmy @RCAF_ARC @CanadianNavy We will remember you every day. #RemembranceDay2015

Ghosts That We Knew (4 Years On)

I cried last night. It’s been 4 years today. And I cried openly while listening to music.IMG_0401 Don’t get me wrong – it was moving. MiniSir and I treated ourselves to our first concert as a couple. We went to see Mumford & Sons, the band that has pretty much been the musical accompaniment of our life together. We courted to their first album, had the first dance at our wedding to a song from the second, and celebrated the birth of our son with the third – not many people have timing that good. So we made out a little to “Lover of the Light”, our dance song, and I thought that was as emotional as I was going to get. Then they played “Ghosts That We Knew”, and the audience looked like this.

It was magical. It was a moment out of time. And it was the combination of being there, in that moment, and listening to these words being sung as though they were directed at me, that started the tears streaming down my face:

You saw my pain washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart

But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
We’ll live a long life

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

And as MiniSir held me, and I wept, I felt almost whole again. It has taken four years – four years of agony and defeat and hope and struggle – but you know what? I feel renewed. I feel like the old me – or as close to the old me as I’ll ever get again. It’s not going to be the same ever again, but I don’t want to be any more. I love my new life. I am happy. And I can cry happy/sad tears and be okay.

Happy Fourth Anniversary, me. You have come a long way, kiddo.