Next contingent of Canadian troops prays for successful mission
Date: Friday, January 09 2004
Topic: Canadian Politics
A rosary and a copy of the Bible were among the final pieces of equipment offered to Canadian troops Friday as they completed preparations for their upcoming mission in Afghanistan.
More than 1,000 soldiers of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group packed Quebec City's Notre Dame Basilica for a pre-mission service. Each soldier was offered the Bible and prayer beads as they left the Roman Catholic church.
The ceremony is a tradition with French-speaking units, including the Royal 22nd Regiment. Commonly known as the Vandoos, the unit will form the bulk of the 2,000 troops who will start shipping out Jan. 20.
Donald Theriault, the bishop for the Canadian Forces, prayed for the soldiers' safety and urged them to find their own spiritual peace before departing on their mission to help bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.
"There is this expression in English: 'You can't give what you don't have'," Theriault told the soldiers during the French-language service.
Brig.-Gen. Jocelyn Lacroix, the Canadian who will lead the Kabul Multinational Brigade, said soldiers need to take care of their spiritual side to maintain good health.
"The intent was to give one more tool in the soldier's kit bag so they can do a better job in theatre," said Lacroix after the soldiers' final parade before departure at CFB Valcartier.
The soldiers, mainly from the base near Quebec City, will replace the Royal Canadian Regiment in Kabul through the end of January and early February.
A handful of the soldiers will join ongoing peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia.
Most of the troops enjoyed a brief year-end vacation after a fall of intense training. Many soldiers spent the holidays trying to reassure nervous families while giving a realistic picture of the mission.
"We try not to give them an incorrect impression, we explain to them exactly what is going on," said Cpl. Eric Poirier, a married father of children aged four and six.
"We don't want to go after telling them nothing. Then they see the news and see things that make them scared. We try to avoid that situation by telling them what is going on, what is really going on."
However soldiers admitted there is cause for some concern in Afghanistan, where six Canadian soldiers have died since the beginning of 2002.
"We're worried," said Cpl. Angel MacEachern, a signaller who will leave behind two children, aged one and four, during her six-month tour.
"With Canadians being injured in the first tour and more being injured in October, my parents are feeling the same as everyone else. There are going to be accidents. For me, the hardest part will be being away from the kids. It's difficult for me but not so bad for them right now."
Four Canadian soldiers died and eight were wounded in April 2002 when a U.S. fighter pilot mistakenly dropped a bomb on them. Two more soldiers died in October when their vehicle struck at least one anti-tank mine.
The Canadian navy frigate HMCS Toronto is also scheduled to leave for the region this month. The ship is set to leave Halifax Wednesday to join coalition naval forces patrolling the Arabian Sea.
© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press
Source: The Canadian Press