Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When Something Actually Means Something

I'm sure you have had the feeling. A quick look at your life and the question arises: "Have I done anything that mattered?". We can't all be Ghandi. Or a ditch digger. We do have the oppurtunity to make a difference, on some level, somewhere for someone. Sometimes we don't take it, or other times we aren't aware of the impact of what we did. I just discovered one such incident.

Years ago I was deployed to Africa, as a group of rebels had taken UN relief workers prisoner. Since there were Canadian, British, American and other nationalities at risk, the British and US sent troops to perform the rescue. As always, it wasn't a flawless operation, but it got the job done. Here's a small excerpt.

"Shit, Ski, Chart's down, Swick's down, Omera's down, we have no air support on standby, and the Brits are held down on the other side of the highway. We need to get the fuck out now!"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck what the hell is going on? Shit, ok, we need to get over the top of that wall, and set up some supportive crossfire for 3rd squad. Hawk and I will cover, you guys go for that hut when we open up. Keep your fucking heads down!!!!"


"Yeah, Hawk?"

"Look left!!"

"Motherfuck!! Goddammnit! I'll cover you, get to the others, take Rainman and Eclipse and outflank those bastards. Go go go go go!!!!!" Hawk had spotted two hostages being dragged out of the door of a building. It was our first break in a very chaotic firefight and rescue attempt.

Within a few minutes we had shot the rebels trying to move the hostages, and found another three hostages in a building nearby. By this time the rebels got the message that we were there to kill them, not just free hostages and began trying to melt into the jungle. Problem for them was that the British were waiting for them, and all met a bloody end.

As we went through the village, and found the remaining hostages in the surrounding area, we also got them ready to fly out on the chopper we had for them. Most were thankful, though a few were rude and yelled at us and hoped we'd never be able to live with ourselves for kiling other humans. Once the chopper lifted off, we went back to the few wounded and handed them to the Brits, who promptly shot them all.

I felt this was one of the most worthwhile missions I was part of. Yet, I also wondered was it worth it? I never saw those workers after that chopper lifted off. I'd wonder every now and then what happened to them, did they ever get over the trauma they were subjected to? Did life for them and their familes move on, or was it destroyed?

Fast forward to recently. I was talking to a customer at work, and as her husband was trying a bike we talked about various things. One thing was Africa, and her daughter was a relief worker taken hostage, who was then rescued by British and American soldiers. We quickly figured out I was part of that mission. Almost in tears, she turned to me and said "You rescued our daughter. Thank you, thank you thank you so much. Thank you for your service." With that she hugged me and sobbed a little.

I know I'll never figure out why I was sent to most places I was, and that I'll never know if what I did, and sacrifices many of us made were in vain or not. But I do know that this particular mission had a great impact on a famile's life, and 12 years later, that made it totally worth it.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Interesting. Didn't know you'd done that before. Kind of makes you think, though.