Mark and I were talking the other day about losing our friends in Afghanistan, and how difficult it is to watch their young faces appear on the news, their lives cut too short by war. Soon, we got to talking about repatriation ceremonies. I’ve attended one ceremony in Trenton, but never overseas. I had ended up feeling silly for getting so teary, even though I didn’t know the soldier who had died, but I can assure you, it is a very emotional experience.
Eventually, I got out the recorder and asked Mark to answer a few questions about what it’s like to attend a repatriation ceremony in Afghanistan.
Q: How many repatriation (repats) did you attend overseas?
A: About 12, but not all of those were Canadian. A contingent is sent from each NATO country when one of our allied soldiers dies.
Q: Do you find yourself, and others, got emotional?
A: Sometimes. Depends on if you knew them or not. Sometimes you hear the bagpipes and it gets pretty hard. Or you watch the guys carrying the casket. That can be hard, you know? But a lot of people just look kind of numb because they’ve seen it too much.
Q: Is your first ceremony harder? Does it make you think of your own mortality and danger over there?
A: Oh yeah. I mean, half of it is sort of the element of the unknown, right? You don’t know what to expect and you get really caught up in it. Thinking of the guy’s family and stuff. And sometimes you think about your own family and what they would do if they lost you. Stuff like that.
Q: On the toughest day, when you lose soldiers or it’s just a really difficult time, what do you think about to get through the day?
A: You just have to try to laugh with your friends. Remember how lucky you are.
Q: And your fantastic wife too, right?
A: (Laughing) Of course. You too. Knowing I had you to come home to made it bearable. And I knew I could call you or email you, and you’d be there.