Sometimes things happen in life that truly make you think about everything. You realize that we all take this for granted, and if this was to leave tomorrow, would we be happy with who we were and what we’d done. Last year it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed to get myself out of a negative environment, attempt to be a better person, and at the same time, squeeze every bit of worth out of life I could. Still, a simple story can change everything and I got one of those stories today.
For those that don’t know, my cousin Will left in February of 1998 to join the Canadian Army. We were pretty close as far as cousins go, especially when we were younger. Age had put a small rift between us – not a negative one, we were just different people – but it was still great to get together from time-to-time, often to take in a wrestling event live or on television. In fact, the night before he left we watched a WWF pay-per-view at his house in Campbellville. When it was over I wished him luck and knew it would be some time before I’d see him again. You never know what will happen when someone heads off into that situation. In 1998 there was no serious threat of war looming over us and it seemed safe enough.
We continued to talk from time-to-time as he was stationed in Edmonton, Alberta where he roomed with a few friends that would become his group for just about everything – up to and including his stationing in Bosnia in 2000. We hadn’t heard from him for a while, and when we did, we learned he had been in a tank that had rolled off a cliff into a ravine. He had smartly positioned himself against the back with his feet firm on the ground and his hands readying himself against the ceiling, and it had done the job, he was safe. Unfortunately he’d been pelted by the contents of the tank and done some damage to his ribs, but no worse for wear outside of that. He had expressed to me that the Army wasn’t for him and he looked forward to coming home – that he had actually lost weight and muscle mass because it was easier to be disciplined at home than in that environment. Early last year his three years were up and he made the decision to come home. Finally, Will bid a temporary farewell to his friends, roommates, and partners and headed home. He was replaced by a fourth member in the Third Battalion of Edmonton Garrison, and these four (along with many others) were sent to assist in the peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan. Will came home. His friends never did.
See, I can’t tell you which three were his friends and which one was his replacement, but all four gentlemen were killed April 18, 2002 in a “friendly fire” incident in Kabul when an American pilot, believing he was being fired upon, dropped a bomb on a station of Canadian peacekeepers. Four soldiers died: Sergeant Marc Leger, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, Private Richard Green, and Private Nathan Smith. Had Will not decided to come home earlier this year, he would have definitely been one of those four – three of these heroes were his good friends, his roomates, and his partners throughout his tenure in Edmonton and in Bosnia.
Will doesn’t read this page, which is probably for the better. We can all imagine the thoughts he has every day – what if he had decided to give it one more year? None of us know what lies around the next corner, or what might exist between here and the grocery store. All we can do is understand the risks that exist each and every day and do our best to not worry about them. Life is a gift – don’t take it for granted. Grab every strand of living you can find and run with it. Don’t let 2002 escape with a vacation – go someplace you’ve always wanted to. Love someone, if you don’t already. If you do, show them again. I’m not trying to get sappy on everyone – I was just reminded today that I have a lot more living to do and time isn’t getting any shorter.