Being away from family hurts most
Windsor soldiers tough it out
Friday, September 01, 2006
KANDAHAR -- Pte. Mike Farrah and Cpl. Jerry Day are surviving on gut-busting ration packs and spit-showers in the dust and heat of an Afghanistan desert teeming with fist-sized spiders and Taliban insurgents.
But they say their loved ones in Windsor have a far tougher mission.
"The worst part about being here is that my family back home thinks it's a lot worse than it is," said Farrah, 21, with Charles Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR).
"They see the news about all the bad stuff but most of the time we're just sitting around the desert having a good time."
Farrah's "good time" might qualify as a nightmare for a less dedicated and hardy soul; life for Canadian soldiers outside the wire in Afghanistan is gruelling, even when they're not dodging bullets or roadside bombs.
The heat is oppressive and the tedium numbing when you're stationed in the desert waiting for the order that may or may not come to gear up and roll toward uncertainty, danger and possibly death, alone with your thoughts and your mates in the dark and stuffy belly of an armoured vehicle.
The food is bad, the cigarettes are plentiful and the showers are non-existent when you're on patrol in the desert. You never know when you'll get to clean yourself up and catch a nap in a cot at a spartan camp, let alone the comparative luxury of Kandahar Air Field.
You might have a spare shirt in your pack but it does you little good as your mission stretches into its second week.
Farrah and Day, 25, a reservist of seven years with the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment who is attached this tour to the RCR, were told to pack for 72 hours for their latest mission but had been out for six long days and six cool nights with no relief in sight.
"You just have to go with it and do the best you can," said Day, who graduated from Riverside high school along with Farrah and several other soldiers here.
"You can't complain. We all volunteered for this. As an infanteer, everybody wants to get out there and rough it."
Day, who just bought a house in the city's near east-end where he and wife Amy-Lynn plan to raise their 14-month-old son Xavier, will spend Christmas and New Year's in the remote Afghan desert for a second time. "It's hard on the wife and the little guy but I'd say it's worth it," he said.
"We're accomplishing something. It's important to get this region stabilized so the government can come in and, hopefully, do all the right things."
Eight Canadians have been killed and many more wounded here since Aug. 3 and more battles and bloodshed are sure to come before the insurgents are driven out of the volatile south and a measure of stability restored to the battered countryside. But the grim outcomes don't make Day and Farrah want to cut and run -- it makes them want to fight even harder to ensure their fellow soldiers didn't die in vain.
"It makes you want to do whatever you can. We lost a lot of guys in August but we made a hell of a lot of progress here at the same time," said Farrah.
"My heart goes out to every family who lost someone, but you can't expect to win without real losses. That's what the army is about. I think it's a surprise to people in Canada because Canada has never had a mission like this before."
Meanwhile in Windsor, 45-year-old Vicky Farrah -- Mike Farrah's mother -- said it's emotionally difficult dealing with her son being in Afghanistan. "Every time there's a noise outside of an engine that I haven't heard before, I go look to make sure it's not an army vehicle that's pulling up to tell me my son's hurt or dead."
Vicky Farrah said this is her son's first assignment overseas, and he has called home at least four times during the past 31/2 weeks.
"He never tells me anything that's going on," she said. "I don't think he's going to say anything to worry me. I think he's very careful about that."
Asked her opinion of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, Farrah said: "I'm not sure. And I don't know that I would want to say.... It's Michael's choice to go over there. He's where he wants to be. We're proud of him."
Farrah said her son is due to return to Windsor in February, but she's not sure he won't leave for Afghanistan again.
"You know, he trained for three years for it," she said. "And he was looking forward to going over there."
Neither Day nor Farrah had been in any battles when they spoke with The Star, but other troops in their convoy had just survived a Taliban ambush on Highway 1 -- a dangerous thoroughfare known as Ambush Alley.
Two Canadians were injured, one seriously, in a chaotic 45-minute firefight one newly arrived soldier described as a "freaking beautiful light-show."
Day and Farrah heard the story of that battle and stories of other battles from the tired troops they just replaced.
"We know exactly what we're getting into. We know the risks. We knew there would be firefights, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombings but we came anyways," said Farrah.
"This is what I do. This is what I get paid for."
Asked if they had anything to say to the folks back home, the troops said this:
Pte. Mike Farrah: "Just tell my family that I love them. Put that in there. Missing them is the worst part of being out here."
Cpl. Jerry Day: "Support the troops. Stick with 'em. We're doing the right thing. I send my love to all my family. I'll see you guys soon."
Friday, September 1, 2006
My little brother - a Soldier
This is a story from the Windsor Star, written by a WS reporter who is stationed in Kandahar. He met my brother Mike along with another Windsor boy and wrote a whole article about them! I am so proud of Mike - please keep him and all the Canadian troops in your prayers!
Posted by On behalf of Mike at 9/01/2006