To see these boys together as responsible young men celebrating a baptism is worth remembering to tell a story down the road for Greg’s firstborn son initiation into Christianity. They grew up together, some studied at the same school, prayed together, became renaissance men, got married, have children, one went to war and came back.
Remembrance day is coming as you can see two of them are wearing poppies on their jacket to pay tribute for all those who have perished in the war who served Canada. I will never understand what it’s like to be on a battlefield, but Glen Kirkland does.
The last time I remember seeing Glen was on Christmas before he went to Afghanistan in 2005. He was so young and in my mind he just a baby. Mind you, these men will remain children in my memory forever. As what my eldest niece who took care of Greg mentioned to me, she remembered Glen coming to the house asking for Greg to go out and play.
“How’s life?” was the first thing he said to me at the reception. Oh, I could tell him, but I’d sooner want to hear how his life is; meaning, how he is coping after the war. But I did not. This occasion is a time to celebrate life.
Who is Glen?
My name is Glen Stuart Kirkland. My family has been in Canada since long before Canada became a country. Over 100 years ago my family stood up and fought in every major conflict and in countless battles for our country, Canada. My great great uncle Stuart Kirkland was a captain at Vimy Ridge fighting for Canada during the First World War. My grandfather, also Stuart Kirkland, was in the Essex Scottish Regiment out of Windsor, Ontario, and he fought for Canada in the Second World War. He fought through Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France. In France he was cited for bravery on the battlefield, receiving the citation from Field Marshal Montgomery, and then was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George VI at Buckingham Palace. His grandfather represented Canada in the honour guard of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. My uncles represented Canada during the Korean War. My father represented Canada in the 3rd Battalion PPCLI as a UN peacekeeper and was eventually awarded the Attorney General’s Award of Valour as a member of the Vancouver Police Department.
I enlisted and represented Canada in the 2nd Battalion PPCLI and was sent to Afghanistan. My tour was one of bloodshed and constant fighting. On the second-last day of my tour, my platoon was ambushed by an estimated 120 Taliban fighters. My vehicle was struck by a rocket. There were five of us in the LAV—five young, alive Canadian men. And then everything changed.
The rocket missed me by inches, exploding and killing three of us instantly. The two of us who remained were seriously injured. After the rocket struck, I was unconscious. When I awoke, I found myself pinned inside the wreckage and I was on fire. I had to pull myself out while on fire and through gunfire try to extract my dead and dying brothers in arms. Without trying to sound shocking, I had to wade through human soup while on fire to get everyone out.
As a result of the attack, I have lost 75% of my hearing. I will now wear hearing aids forever. I have lost some sight, and I still have metal chunks in me. I have scars from being on fire, and because of the attack I have suffered a brain injury. As a result, my brain has stopped telling my pancreas to produce insulin, and I have to inject myself six to ten times a day with insulin to stay alive.
I suffer from PTSD so badly that I haven’t been able to visit my home in Vancouver for years. I can’t handle the anxiety of being around crowds. Survivor guilt haunts me every day.
When I was in the hospital in Afghanistan, I spoke to my father on the phone. My dad said, “Don’t worry, Canada will take care of you. You stepped up like we always have and you did your part, and Canada will do its part. It’s only fair. Everything will work out.”
My dad was wrong.
Canada did not take care of him and other men that came back from the war. Returning to their beloved country is a different battlefield. How to stay alive.
Glen Kirkland stayed in the military in spite of his injuries, sought medical help for PTSD and was given a discharge notice for becoming “unserviceable” one year away from ten years of service to receive a pension. This means losing his benefits, and he fought for his retirement. In short, he was granted to stay in the military to collect his pension. Knowing that he was given preferential treatment, he quit the army and gave up his pension when other veterans will not be receiving the same treatment. Military pension opened a can of worms in the Parliament and became a heated debate.
“I Came Back.” as what Glen says dedicating himself into a new cause. He is now taking a stand against the federal government on behalf of other injured soldiers since everyone in the military are on the same team and should receive benefits. He came back to life to turn the situation into positive. There is more to him about the guy who was blown up and lived. It’s part of him that does not define him.
Reflecting on the term PTSD, with Glen’s experience, I think that he is Planting The Seeds Deeply for the future war veterans’ welfare.
May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
“For A Leader” by John O’Donohue
Christmas is coming and I am looking forward to seeing him again with the boys.