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The Black Rod: A soldier's letter

The body of Canadian soldier Cpl. Anthony Bonseca was returned to Canada from Afghanistan Wednesday evening and the mainstream media got their first chance to cover a repatriation ceremony live.While commentators spoke in hushed, reverential tones, their cameras scurried for close-ups of crying relatives and friends---- the televison money shot.

And as the television hosts pretended to honour Cpl. Bonseca, they and their reporters on the ground repeated the published slanders against him over and over again, except this time trading the excited delivery they've used for the past few days for faux respect.

A soldier serving in Afghanistan with Cpl. Bonseca has written his opinion of how the news media has treated the fallen soldier.

The letter first appeared on the internet site forums
It was reprinted in the blog The Torch
( ).

The Torch is a "group weblog focussing on the Canadian military," which takes it's name from a line in the famous poem In Flanders Fields: "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high."

The blog Small Dead Animals comments
then picked it up and that's where we found it.

We, in turn, reprint the letter and strongly urge readers to go to the other sites mentioned above to read the comments.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
A Canadian soldier in Afghanistan speaks
This infanteer from the reserves,47110.msg410542.html

I knew Tony. I've kept my comments to myself until I could calm down my outrage over the media coverage of his death. We weren't great friends, but buddies. Other soldiers know what I mean. I spoke to Tony a couple weeks ago out at one of the FOB's. Not much said, just that there was a job to do, some bitching about the heat and the food, reminders that it would soon all be over, discussions of plans upon returning to Canada, the promise to drink some beers together on our way home. Normal soldier stuff. There is nothing in his first and last letters as published in the newspapers to suggest he was any more miserable than any other soldier, in any army, in any theatre in the world. It is our right to ***** and complain. A soldier who is not doing either, is upset or distressed and needs attention. A soldier who is not scared out there is a liar or crazy. As a soldier you do not ignore fear, you manage it. Welcome to war.

I have been in Kandahar for 6 months, and I'm sure I don't like it here anymore than Tony did. I don't know many, if any who do like it here. The infantry and those supporting them out the wire have it especially tough. Little rest, little in the way of comforts and the most exposure to the dangerous stuff. Generally we like our jobs, and being operational, that's why we do this. We play for keeps in the big game. No one here comes wanting to die, or to do stupid things that will get you killed. Each and every one of us know the random nature of war. Everyone here knows someone who has died or been wounded or knows someone who does. It touches us all in some way. crap happens. I don't think anyone truly enjoys being away from their families or comforts. But this is why we join. To serve Canada and her foreign policy in whatever capacity is determined by the politicians. We have a mission, a mission carried out by soldiers, doing the legally sanctioned business of our elected government. Sometimes we like it, sometimes we don't. Nature of the business. That's the flag waving part of it, but there are other reasons we do this that people who have never served cannot possibly understand. I will not endeavour to explain it to you if you have not...

Tony was trained as a Canadian Infantry Soldier and was doing the job for which he had been trained. The role of the Infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy. Our reason to be is not to kiss babies and hand out candies and blankets. We do that anyway, because we are decent, generally caring Canadian boys and girls, but that's not our primary function. To quote General Hillier "We are not the public service of Canada. We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able kill people."

As for Tony being a reservist. So what? We receive excellent training and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible reporting, but that's nothing new. Could training be better for both Reserve and Regular? Sure. Could the Reserve and the Regular force get more money and equipment for training? Sure. The Federal government and NDHQ seem to be doing their best to address our needs as a military. It is now a vast improvement over tours in the past, and over the last dozen or more years. The recent announcements seem to reflect the seriousness of the commitment of our leaders to the military and through us the security of the Canadian people. As a Reservist myself, I take offence to the suggestion that reservists should not be deployed...

I am sure there is a long line up of Reservists and their Regular force counterparts in Afghanistan and elsewhere who would argue openly with anyone who would suggest differently. Mr / Ms reporter ; Please, suggest to my face or that of my military family that we do not possess the mindset or the skills needed to engage in combat. I don't think you have the parts or the qualifications to make such a statement. You do however have the parts and the audacity to drag the family, friends and colleagues of Tony Boneca through the mud so you can sell papers and airtime and generate controversy. You do your country and your military a disservice but also have undoubtedly cause Tony's parents a great deal of unneeded and unwanted stress.

You also do the general public a great disservice because you corrupt the truth and cloud the heroic activities of our soldiers, and you fuel the rhetoric spewed forth by the anti everything wackos out there.

As has so often happened in the media with respect to our military, I have lumped all media into one category. I will however offer the caveat, a courtesy if you will that isn't generally afforded to the military or it's members, as has been demonstrated by the "media machine" these past few days. The caveat is this. You're not all bad, or the way I describe. Some of you even seem to love us, some of those that are embedded and grow to care deeply for and respect the soldiers on whom they are depending for their very lives and safety. There are a few bad apples and armchair warriors that put pen to paper or make ludicrous unsubstantiated statements and cause the mistrust I feel for your profession right now.

The media as a profession should be ashamed of themselves. Why not self police? If the reporters responsible for this latest reporting can look in the mirror in the morning after the disgusting and shameful coverage your have made of Tony's death, then I would go so far as to suggest that they are of questionable integrity and moral fibre...

Allow Tony's family to grieve in private. Not only honour, but for a change respect the wishes and dignity of his grieving parents and honour the memory of a soldier who died the way a soldier should. Not in an unfortunate accident, not in a roadside bomb, but in combat. These are my opinions/observations and mine alone. I don't often say a lot in here, but I am compelled to now.

Well done Tony. I'm glad to have known you. You were a nice kid with a bright future. I am certain you are in that fabled place that all warriors go, where our fallen soldiers by whatever mechanism they perished, watch over us all. I would like to have seen what you may have accomplished later in life as a result of your soldiering experiences. I was looking forward to the beers we talked about during the trip home. To your family other friends, and your Regiment, I offer you my most sincere condolences and I wish you peace and quiet to reflect on the life of your son and friend.

posted by Mark, Ottawa at 3:26 PM

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