Commemoration Events: The Regiments
- Perhaps this message is just an excuse to post the following:
By Courtesy (St. John's)
Friday, January 26, 2007
By Rick Mercer
For The Independent
Poor Noreen Golfman. She wrote in her Jan. 12 column (Blowing in the
Wind ) that her holidays were ruined by what she felt were incessant
reports about Canadian men and women serving in Afghanistan. So upset
was Noreen that, armed with her legendary pen, sharpened from years in
the trenches at Memorial University's women's studies department, she
went on the attack. I know I should just ignore the good professor and
write her off as another bitter baby boom academic pining for what she
fondly calls "the protest songs of yesteryear," but I can't help
myself. A response is exactly what she wants; and so I include it
here. After all, Newfoundlanders have seen this before: Noreen
Golfman, sadly, is Margaret Wente without the wit.
I am so sorry to hear about the interruption to your holiday cheer.
You say in your column that it all started when the CBC ran a story on
some "poor sod" who got his legs blown off in Afghanistan.
The "poor sod" in question, Noreen, has a name and it is Cpl. Paul
Franklin. He is a medic in the Forces and has been a buddy of mine for
years. I had dinner with him last week in Edmonton, in fact. I will be
sure to pass on to him that his lack of legs caused you some personal
discomfort this Christmas.
Paul is a pretty amazing guy. You would like him I think. When I met
him years ago he had two good legs and a brutally funny sense of
humour. He was so funny that I was pretty sure he was a
Newfoundlander. You probably know the type (or maybe you don't) salt
of the earth, always smiling, and like so many health-care
professionals, seemingly obsessed with helping others in need.
These days he spends his time training other health-care workers and
learning how to walk again. That's a pretty exhausting task for Paul
heading into rehabilitation he knew very well his chances of walking
again were next to none, considering he's a double amputee, missing
both legs above the knee.
At the risk of ruining your day Noreen, I'm proud to report that for
the last few months he has managed to walk his son to school almost
every morning and it's almost a kilometre from his house. Next month
Paul hopes to travel to Washington where he claims he will learn how
to run on something he calls "bionic flipper cheetah feet." The legs
may be gone but the sense of humour is still very much intact.
Forgive me Noreen for using Paul's name so much, but seeing as you
didn't catch it when CBC ran the profile on his recovery I thought it
might be nice if you perhaps bothered to remember it from here on in.
This way, when you are pontificating about him at a dinner party, you
no longer have to refer to him simply as the "poor sod," but you can
actually refer to him as Paul Franklin. You may prefer "poor sod" of
course; it's all a matter of how you look at things. You see a "poor
sod" that ruined your Christmas and I see a truly inspiring guy.
That's why I am thrilled that the CBC saw fit to run a story on Paul
and his wife Audra. I would go so far as to suggest that many people
would find their story, their marriage and their charitable endeavours
inspiring. Just as I am sure that many readers of The Independent are
inspired by your suggestion that Paul's story has no place on the
Further on in your column you ask why more people aren't questioning
Canada's role in Afghanistan. I understand this frustration. It's a
good question. Why should Canada honour its United Nations-sanctioned
NATO commitments? Let's have the discussion. I would welcome debate on
the idea that Canada should simply ignore its international
obligations and pull out of Afghanistan. By all means ask the
questions Noreen, but surely such debates can occur without begrudging
the families of injured soldiers too much airtime at Christmas?
Personally, I would have thought that as a professor of women's
studies you would be somewhat supportive of the notion of a NATO
presence in Afghanistan. After all, it is the NATO force that is
keeping the Taliban from power. In case you missed it Noreen, the
Taliban was a regime that systematically de-peopled women to the point
where they had no human rights whatsoever. This was a country where
until very recently it was illegal for a child to fly a kite or for a
little girl to receive any education.
To put it in terms you might understand Noreen, rest assured the
Taliban would frown on your attending this year's opening night gala
of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. In fact, as a
woman, a professor, a writer and (one supposes) an advocate of the
concept that women are people, they would probably want to kill you
three or four times over. Thankfully that notion is moot in our cozy
part of the world but were it ever come to pass I would suggest that
you would be grateful if a "poor sod" like Paul Franklin happened
along to risk his life to protect yours.
And then of course you seem to be somehow personally indignant that I
would visit troops in Afghanistan over Christmas. You ask the question
"When did the worm turn?" Well I hate to break it to you, but in my
case this worm has been doing this for a long time now. It's been a
decade since I visited Canadian peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and
this Christmas marked my third trip to Afghanistan. Why do I do it?
Well I am not a soldier that much is perfectly clear. I don't have
the discipline or the skills. But I am an entertainer and entertainers
entertain. And occasionally, like most Canadians, I get to volunteer
my professional time to causes that I find personally satisfying.
As a Newfoundlander this is very personal to me. On every one of these
trips I meet Newfoundlanders who serve proudly in the Canadian Forces.
Every day they do the hard work that we as a nation ask of them. They
do this without complaint and they do it knowing that at every turn
there are people like you, Noreen, suggesting that what they do is
somehow undignified or misguided.
I am also curious Noreen why you refer to the head of the Canadian
Forces, General Rick Hillier, as "Rick `MUN graduate' Hillier." I
would suggest that if you wish to criticize General Hillier's record
of leadership or service to his country you should feel free. He is a
big boy. However, when you dismiss him as "Rick `MUN Graduate'
Hillier" the message is loud and clear. Are you suggesting that
because General Hillier received an education at Memorial he is
somehow unqualified for high command? We are used to seeing this type
of tactic in certain national papers not The Independent.
You end by saying you personally cannot envision that peace can ever
be paved with military offensives. May I suggest to you that in many
instances in history peace has been achieved exactly that way.
The gates of Auschwitz were not opened with peace talks. Holland was
not liberated by peacekeepers and fascism was not defeated with a deft
pen. Time and time again men and women in uniform have laid down their
lives in just causes and in an effort to free others from oppression.
It is unfortunate, Noreen, that in such instances people like yourself
may have your sensitivities offended, especially during the holiday
season, but perhaps that is a small price to pay. Best wishes for the
remainder of 2007; may it be a year of peace and prosperity.
Jim Yaworsky here again.
I went to The Independent's web site to copy the above, and while
there, I recollected that in the 1990's, the Royal Newfoundland
Regiment had its 200th anniversary. At the time, I arranged for the
City of Windsor, the County of Essex, and the Town of Amherstburg
councils to pass formal congratulatory proclamations (the exact
anniversary date was proclaimed "Royal Newfoundland Regiment" day in
Windsor and Amherstburg) and elaborate official proclamations were
produced, signed by the respective Mayors and Reeve, framed, and sent
to the Regiment in time for the celebrations. These proclamations
noted the part the Regiment had played in defending this area in the
War of 1812- and told current members that that role was not forgotten!
The point here is, we shouldn't neglect to get the surviving regiments
- like the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the U.S. 7th, etc. - and the
"successor" regiments (like, in the case of the 41st, the Royal Welch
Regiment) involved in our commemoration activities.
OK, OK - so the above *was* just an excuse to post Mercer's "Fighting
Words..." Mea culpa! Even if it was off-topic, it was a damned fine
read, wasn't it?