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Afghanistan veteran brought home reality of war at Rockwood service on Nov. 5

by Mike Robinson

ROCKWOOD - In a message of solemn remembrance on Nov. 5, Captain Rick Moyer brought the reality of war home to Wellington County residents.

Moyer is one of 31,000 men and women in the Canadian Forces and civilian personnel that served in Afghanistan over the past 10 years.

“War is not glorious,” Moyer said. “The soldiers of the First World War, the Second World War, Korea and now Afghanistan know this. It is dust and dirt. It is loneliness and loss. It is heartache and longing.”

Moyer added, “It is also, sadly, something that will not soon leave us.”

He said, “While the official combat mission for Canada has come to an end, the recent death of Master Corporal Byron Greff reminds us that our soldiers are still in a dangerous place, doing the bidding of our government and the people of our country.”

A resident of Guelph-Eramosa, Moyer has been a member of the Canadian Forces primary reserve for close to 20 years.

He first trained as a tank officer with the Governors General’s Horse Guards and more recently as the infantry company commander of The Queen’s Own Rifles in Toronto.

Last fall, he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan and was attached to the U.S. Marine 10th Mountain Division in the Regional Command South.

While overseas, Moyer worked with the Afghan national police force at the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan attempting to professionalize the force.

Now back home in Guelph-Eramosa Township with his wife and children, Moyer is preparing for the move to his new unit, The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, in Cambridge next year.

At the Nov. 5 Rockwood service he said his deployment to Kandahar represented the opportunity for him to put his years of training to use - like many a soldier - into Canada’s first major war effort in the last 50 years.

“It was an honour to serve, but of course serving in situations like that comes with a price,” Moyer said.

He added for himself and his family, “the daily knowledge of harm, or worse, that could come my way was a reality.”

He noted that just one year ago, he’d been in Kandahar for little over a month when Remembrance Day arrived.

“On the 11th of November, I attended a memorial service at the Kandahar headquarters compound to honour the fallen of Canada in that war and the wars we have fought before,” he said. “But before I went to that ceremony, I attended a ramp ceremony for two United States soldiers killed in the 24 hours previous in a neighbouring province.”

Ramp ceremonies are specially-orchestrated military funerals given by a country’s military for a soldier, sailor, marine or airman who died in battle.

“Ramp ceremonies are a sobering event - no matter the nationality of the soldiers,” Moyer said. “And they are images I will not soon forget. They unfortunately were almost daily events at the time of the campaign last fall.”

Moyer said while he had been a soldier for close to 20 years, “this was for me the first time where the experiences of the death, danger and the loss that I’d heard about for so much of my life, were actually a reality for me.”

He said the first time seeing the soldiers who were killed, and the comrades who carried them from the armoured personnel carriers or the ambulance onto a plane, often within hours of battle, “the thing that impressed me the most was their youth. I’ve been a soldier myself for a long time now, enough to know that they would be young. But it somehow took me aback.”

While there were no pictures of the deceased, Moyer said, “You could get a pretty good idea of who they were by looking at their buddies. They were often filthy, tanned by the sun and looked fatigued from the struggle they were waging and the burden they now carried with the remains of their friend.”

Moyer remembered as a young man standing by the cenotaph in St. Catharines, close to where he grew up, and watching the few old soldiers who remained from the First World War lay a wreath of remembrance. He thought for them, it must have seemed so long ago.

At the time, Second World War vets were still plentiful and young enough to be working and much more able to participate and march in the parade.

Moyer said, “Today, the First World War vets are gone and we are coming close to the 100th anniversary of the start of that war. The Second World War vets are no longer as abundant and many a great soldier and character has passed on.

“At one point it seemed we would be in danger of forgetting veterans who had passed away, but the Canadian involvement overseas over the past decade and half has reborn an appreciation for the sacrifice of our fathers, grandfathers, neighbours and friends.”

Moyer hoped that acknowledgement, as shared by the many people at the Rockwood service, would continue to grow.

While Canada has had soldiers at war for the past number of years, it has not been a country at war, in the sense of the First and Second World Wars.

“People go about their daily lives and unless there is a major news bulletin, may not necessarily think about the soldiers thousands of miles away in a dangerous land,” Moyer said.

His deployment in Afghanistan further brought the reality of war to him, a member of the reserves, who normally does training on weekends or in the summertime.

“I’m proud of the tradition of reserve soldiers in Canada and the fact that we do participate at such a high rate in the Canadian international commitments,” he said.

He asked residents to continue to support those soldiers as the community of Guelph-Eramosa and the city of Guelph supported him and his family over the past year.

“Keep them in your prayers, and always on this day in particular, remember those who have not come home,” he said.

 

November 11, 2011

 
 

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