I was in my hotel in London when I saw the news.
I knew that road. I recognized the old palace, of course. That was where I had watched young men play a game of cricket, one of Afghanistan’s fastest growing sports. I also recognized the street lights. They are newly constructed, and an Afghan colleague had told me proudly that they were first switched on just over a month ago.
Then the camera panned across to the bus, still burning, and the people trying to bring order to the chaos. In the background were some buildings. I know there is the American University on that road, a couple of high schools, some shops. The bus was taking soldiers — Afghan and international — from one base to another, within the city. It was taking those who were to be trained, and their trainers. It was not conducting operations. It was not seeking insurgents. It was taking people to work.
This attack was not against Canada, or the U.S., or any other international country. It was not even against Afghanistan. It was an attack on social progress, on civil governance, on our global community. It was an attack perpetrated by those who refuse to accept that there are other ways of doing and believing, ways other than their own. It was an attack against humanity.
We Canadians lost another brave young soldier in this attack. We mourn Master Cpl. Byron Greff as we mourn the 157 other soldiers and four civilians who have also died. We pray for him and his family as we pray for all who have been injured or maimed, whether physically or psychologically or both.
Master Cpl.Greff was on his way to do something he was good at — teaching his skills to the eager new recruits of the Afghan National Army. His work will have long-lasting effects, well after the last international soldier has returned home, the ANA will be responsible for the security of their country.
The day I got back to Charlottetown was the same day that the Portraits of Honour tour was in town. My flight was late, so I missed the public showing of those incredible paintings. I am so grateful to my wife, Sally, who arranged with artist Dave Sopha for me to have a private viewing.
The portraits truly are amazing, and the likenesses precise. Nichola is in the centre of the tableau, under the dove of peace. Byron will join her soon. In a few months I hope to return to Kabul to continue my work with the teacher educators of Afghanistan. It is because of the work of my daughter Nichola, of Master Cpl. Greff, and of their colleagues in the Canadian Forces who have gone before and who will continue to work in the future, that I am able to do my own work.
I do what I do because they have done what they do, and like all Canadians I am thankful to them for their commitment to making the world a better place.
November 3, 2011