I remember when Sgt. Greg Kruse was killed in December 2008. I remember the phone call. The shock. The disbelief. I remember the drive to the Kruse home in Pembroke. I drove it in silence. I didn’t want anything to remind me of that moment.
I spent this past Monday in shock and disbelief again. This time it was over the death of Sgt. James MacNeil. He was killed by an IED. I had the privilege of knowing Jimmy, although I didn’t know him very well. I knew him through my husband, Scott, who had worked with Jimmy on his last tour. They served together as combat engineers. Scott spoke about Jimmy with the utmost respect. He was fun. I remember his wise cracks at the troop barbeque in September 2008. Whenever I saw Jimmy he always had a smile on his face. He was always friendly, sincere and he liked to joke around. His grin would melt your heart. He was the life of the party and he was a professional soldier. He was respected by the troops. The media reports I have read about Jimmy described the guy I knew.
The last time I talked to Jimmy was at the Task Force 1-10 Departure Ceremony in March. I was there to cover the event for the magazine. I chatted with Jimmy and a few other engineers who were deploying. We talked about the upcoming tour. How this tour was Jimmy’s fourth tour, which surprised me. He had been to Afghanistan three times and he was returning for his fourth tour. I was left speechless.
We talked a bit about the mission. I asked him if he had seen any differences throughout the tours. I was looking for validation – for someone I knew to tell me that our Canadian troops are making a difference; that all this loss is for nothing. He simply told me to ask a member of the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team), His job was not working with the Afghan people in the villages. His job was securing areas from the Taliban.
On Friday June 25th Jimmy’s family will make the journey down the Highway of Heroes. If you happen to be in the area I don’t think I can stress how comforting it is for the families who are dealing with the loss of their soldier to see Canadians standing at the side of the highway, on the overpasses, on the road, in the parking lots. I know it was comforting for Jill’s family. The people. The signs. The support.
Here is to Sgt. James MacNeil, Sgt. Martin Goudreault, Trooper Larry Rudd, Col. Geoff Parker, Pte. Kevin McKay, Petty Officer (second class) Craig Blake, Pte. Tyler William Todd who have all been killed in action since we launched our new website in April of this year and the 141 soldiers who have lost their lives since we have been in Afghanistan. May you all rest in peace.
picture of the late Sgt. Gregory Kruse and late Sgt. James MacNeil Christmastime 2008