War is Over (And I’m Not Ready To Reflect)

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Canada’s war effort in Afghanistan ends this week.

It seems like it really ended a while ago.  In 2011 the combat portion of our commitment to the war ended, and since DH is a combat soldier, that was when it all changed for us.

But this week, this week we are going to hear all the opinions as the ‘last’ Canadian soldiers come home.

I say ‘last’ because there are still some there.  And still some heading there.  And I hate that those families will watch these ‘Final Homecomings’ on TV while wondering why they don’t apply to them.  And for the next 6 months or however long their loved one is deployed, they will answer to everyone as they say to them ‘but I thought the war was over?’

If you watch any TV or read any news, you will see the mini reports and the specials about what it has all meant.

And you might, I won’t assume you will but you might do as as many, many others have over the past while, and ask us what we think of it all.
And if you do there’s a good chance that because it will take me a while to respond, you will probably tell me how I feel.

You will tell me how thrilled I must be now, knowing that it’s “all over”.

You might even tell me that you ‘Support the Troops‘ but are happy that this war, that never should have started, is all done so that we can move on.

And that’s funny, because I was there in 2001 when those planes hit and many of you cried for Canada to ‘Do Something‘. 
I even wrote this post two years ago about how I was there when a whole city stood up and noticed the military base within it.

 You might tell me of the cost of the war, and how it wasn’t worth the lives.

And you will look at me with pity, and you will tell me that I must be so grateful to know he doesn’t have to go again.

You may tell me all of this not to be hurtful, but because you assume it must be true.

And I won’t tell you that you are wrong, because what you think I should feel makes more sense than what I do.

I will assume, because I am just as set in my thoughts and ways as everyone else, that you don’t actually want to hear what it really feels like.

It really feels like defensiveness.

Because every time the news reports on how useless it all was, well it seems like that is somehow a personal attack on what my family gave up, which was a tiny sacrifice compared to what other families lost.

And every time someone tells me how little was accomplished, or argues with Dh about any progress that happened or good that came of it all, it feels like a desire to scream from the rooftops that it HAD to have meant something.

It feels like a loss.

How wrong is that?

It feels like a loss because – what does normal look like?  Eventually the cycle of predeployment, deployment, reintegration, predeployment, deployment, reintegration, predeployment……
it becomes normal.
Without it everything feels different.

It feels like uncertainty.

What happens next?  Dh on his third tour to the same country used to say ‘better the devil I know.’  But it’s no longer our fight and the world is not short on devils.  It’s amazing how the human heart can become familiar with one kind of fear and accept it over another.

It feels like frustration.

Because no one wants war.
But have you ever met a firefighter that was happy his or her entire career without fighting a fire?
The expectation is that our soldiers will feel content and even grateful with the new, quieter jobs.  I mean, working a cubicle is safe and predictable, right?

It feels like politics.

Now come the commentaries.  And the budget cuts.  The safer ‘it’s all over now’ environment where everyone feels okay with sharing their opinions, like the war is somehow less personal for those who fought it as the time passes.

It feels like expectation.

Like this is the end and now is the time to forget and move forward.

And what do we say if we aren’t ready?

This war was bigger than Canada.  Bigger than the allies we fought with.  It was fought in another country whose civilians were not our enemy and yet they had to live with the war all around them.

That makes the discussion that we have in the safety of our nation over what this war meant seem insignificant and detached.  What right do we have?

And yet, it took many years for me to sit at this computer and type the words “Afghanistan changed me.” for this post last month.

It changed my husband and my children, my family, my country, my expectations of what my life would look like, my understanding of fear and honour and loss and pride.

And I know that it seems like the right time for us all to reflect on it, but  have a selfish and narcissistic desire to hold onto it like it belongs only to us, and to tell all those sitting in Starbucks or standing in line at the grocery store to stop telling me how to think because they don’t get to have an opinion.

I’m not ready for it to become a theoretical discussion and political debate.

For now, I still need it to be about this.

And this.

And in my home, I need it to still be about learning to feel grateful instead of guilty for all the times we had this.

 This post is a selfish and self centered response to a question that was asked in that way that you ask when you don’t really want to know the answer and for that I apologise.

I guess my tiny part of the world isn’t ready for everyone else to start reflecting yet.

Because reflecting leads to moving forward and the fear will linger that moving forward means forgetting.

Which I think now that I type this, means that what I need it to be about above all, is remembering.




  1. Thank you for these thoughts. I suspect for most Canadians who weren't touched by the war in the way that you and your family were, this ending of 12 years of our involvement in Afghanistan will be a "meh", not because they are bad or shallow people, but because of the ADD-aspect of our culture.
    I think of where army families are today and suspect there are some similarities to what it must have been like for those families touched by the Korean War. The last of the Korean War vets came back to a Canada that had largely moved on. They weren't feted the way that the guys were in 1945. It took years before anyone realized that we had done something worthwhile in Korea. I like to think that I drive a Kia now because of the Korean War ad what my dad and his comrades did there.
    The reporters will say that the future for Afghanistan looks pretty bleak, but it's too soon for the judgements of history there. What I will say is that yesterday, when I was going to class at Laurier, I walked through a big display by the Afghan Students Association. There were a lot of pictures of the Afghan wars of the last 40 years and some expressions of gratitude for what NATO and ISAF did. I don't think that those kids and those pictures would have been there if it hadn't been for what you and so many army families have given in the last 12 years, so on behalf of those Laurier kids, thank you.
    I'm sorry I never wished you a happy birthday. That mug was awesome.
    Padre Mike


  2. thanks to all your country's men and women,too!! God bless ALL of them!

    this is like the vietnam war and korean war..,little appreciation for the dedication and hard work and SACRIFICE that all the soldiers gave and continue to give FOR US AND OUR COUNTRY(s)!!

    thanks for stopping by my blog!


  3. This was wonderfully written.

    I'm married to an American soldier so we haven't "officially" left yet but I feel like I'm going to be lost without a war as sick as that sounds. People are going to forget about the sacrifices and the deployments that soldiers make on a daily basis, regardless if we're "at war" and I'm going to be the crazy person yelling that they still need our attention and support. It's quickly becoming a very alienating feeling.


    1. It's true, I felt that way in 2004. All of a sudden it was like everyone is so fickle, they completely forgot we were actually still in the country. Their attention span was so short even though they had been all supporive 2 years before, they had forgotten already! Don't worry, I will be crazy with you 🙂


  4. This entire post reflects my thoughts exactly! Honestly, although I know other countries are fighting, I never really thought that others outside of the States would share the same feelings.


    1. We sure do, it's hard when our military community is so small here in comparison, but we sure do.


  5. We train and deploy on exercise in the hope that we will never have to wield our skills in time of war. Combat and peace making are high on the list of things I will be glad to never experience again – and things that I futilely wish my children never see again.


    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katherine, while I don't know any good soldier who hopes war on anyone, I have to say that most I know are happy for the opportunity to use their skills in real life situations. I know that if my husband spent the rest of his career training without another chance to use what he has learned out in the world to do the most good he can, he would feel very unfulfilled in his job.
      As I said, he often likens it to a firefighter that would never want a family to experience a home in flames, but knowing that dispite that fires still happen and so (s)he would also be disappointed to spend his or her career without ever having the chance to fight a real fire.
      But I certainly understand that everyone experiences and thoughts on the issue would be different, so I appreciate a different perspective! 🙂


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