Good News of Returning Troops, not so good news from Theatre of Operations.

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The reservists of the Lincoln and Welland reserve regiment are home.

Local soldiers welcomed home RESERVISTS: Nine Lincs and Winks return Posted By KARENA WALTER,

If Cpl. Brandon Honey needed an eye-opener when he arrived in Afghanistan, he got one.The Lincoln and Welland Regiment reservist was part of a platoon that was supposed to be replacing a group of soldiers on their way home to Canada.But the returning soldiers from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry came under insurgent attack a few days before Honey landed nine months ago in Afghanistan.Three soldiers were killed.My first job there was to watch the ramp ceremony, he said Sunday.Honey, 28, of St. Catharines, said he was under no pretense going to Afghanistan would be all fun and games.He's been with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment for nine years and was on his second overseas trip for the army after serving in Bosnia.Yesterday, the regiment held a welcome home celebration for nine recently returned veterans from Afghanistan.The event at Butler's Barracks in Niagara-on-the-Lake allowed families and the military community to enjoy a mostly informal day of barbecuing, socializing and checking out displays.There was pretty much a party every day someone came back, but this is the official one, said Lt.-Col. Matt Richardson, Lincoln and Welland Regiment's commanding officer. The regiment holds an annual family day, but Richardson said they wanted to make it a little bigger this year.

Ten members of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment were scheduled to return home over recent weeks after being gone for six-month to 10-month tours.They included Honey, Cpl. Drew Neufeld, Cpl. Bob Pye, Cpl. Peter Paget, Cpl. Dan Creamer and Cpl. Jason Hamlyn, from St. Catharines area, and Sgt. Matt Harris, Master Cpl. Trevor Brown and Master Cpl. Emily Ireland from Welland.But for many, the return was bittersweet, after Warrant Officer Dennis Brown, 38, was killed in a roadside bomb blast in March.Brown, a St. Catharines resident, was also scheduled to return home this spring and his death hit the regiment hard.I used to be 1 RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) so it wasn't the first friend I lost over there, but it hit close to home, Pye, 31, said at the park Sunday.

Pye was the last Lincs and Winks to return, arriving home April 30. The tour was his fourth military trip overseas and third to Afghanistan.

For seven months in Afghanistan, he lived side by side with other soldiers, college-dorm style, in lightly air conditioned 50C heat.As a light machine gunner, he was carrying 110 pounds, a little less his 150-pound body weight.The big difference with the latest tour, he said, was the number of people deliberately trying to hurt soldiers. Villages that were friendly one day, changed sides the next.Your body's under stress. You're under stress from IEDs and landmines, someone springing up and shooting at you, he said.His battle group came under fire shortly after arriving in the country. And on Boxing Day, his group was struck down by a roadside bomb that killed his driver.

It was Dennis Brown who broke the news to Honey's wife about the strike.

After going through the grief in December, Honey went through it all again when Brown was killed.This tour was particularly bad for Lincs and Winks and pretty much the whole force. We did lose a lot of guys, JoAnna Honey said.

Married last year at Fort George, JoAnna said the hardest thing about the separation was being unable to contact Honey.You pretty much just wait for the phone to ring or get an e-mail or message, she said.Others constantly asked her how Honey was doing, but, like other military spouses find out, she was unable to fill them in.All I'd say is, 'Don't worry, he's OK' and people want to know more, she said. That's where the frustration and stress comes in, because I want to know too.

Not so good news from Afghanistan, directed at Canadian troops.

An unidentified Canadian Soldier, conducting a Biometrics exam on an Afghan Villager. Testing for Explosives Residue.

Canadian soldiers took a suspicious man in for questioning Wednesday after a five-hour foot patrol through villages and fields where local farmers complained about being fired upon while tending to their crops at night.

The encounters highlighted the often difficult task of telling friend from foe in a war in which insurgents easily blend in with the locals who eke out a living from the verdant grape and wheat fields that surround the isolated patrol base of Sperwan Ghar.

The man, who just happened to cross the path of patrolling soldiers, could not explain what he was doing in the area of southern Afghanistan where Taliban rebels frequently deploy improvised explosive devices.

Last week, for example, Canadian forces in the area neutralized a daisy chain -- a series of connected explosives laid over a distance of almost 90 metres, enough to have destroyed an entire foot patrol had it been detonated.

Despite his insistence he had been unemployed for nine years, the 43-year-old man was carrying a small quantity of Pakistani money. He also tested positive for fertilizer residue, which is sometimes used to manufacture explosives.

The soldiers also questioned an eight-year-old boy carrying a small yellow-handled scythe, who burst into tears, and his 10-year-old cousin, who had been working the fields near where the man was walking.

While the presence of children is usually taken by soldiers as a sign there's no immediate danger, youngsters are often used by the Taliban as scouts. However, neither boy said he knew the man being questioned, nor had they been asked to report on the soldiers' movements.

Eventually, they were allowed to scurry home, each clutching a small sweet given them by one of the soldiers.

The patrols, which ramble daily through Panjwaii's pastoral landscape, can quickly become tense, painstaking affairs as soldiers stop to check culverts and any of the myriad other places explosives can be hidden.The tell-tale boom of a blast at some distance or the odd warning shot fired by one of the soldiers -- as happened Wednesday -- serve as constant reminders of the insurgent threat.

A short distance from where the man was questioned, two farmers button-holed the soldiers to complain about getting shot at by coalition forces at the patrol base while they worked their fields.If it doesn't stop, one man said, We will have to leave this area.

After ascertaining from them the gunfire had occurred the previous evening, Sgt. Philippe Dessureault pointed out that Canadian soldiers had not discharged their guns at that time. The firing most likely came from twitchy Afghan National Army soldiers, a popular target for insurgents.

Nonetheless, there were signs that rumours have been spreading of Canadian soldiers firing on civilians. Two days earlier, two teens made similar complaints during a foot patrol in a different village.

One of the farmers was working in the garden and one of your members was shooting at him and now he is murdered, one teen said though an interpreter.

We do not shoot Afghan villagers, Dessureault explained to the dubious youth. We are here to protect you and to help you.

One day, our mullah was faced with you people and he was scared from that and his body was shaking, the youth said.

Dessureault later said he believed the teen was referring to an incident in which troops shot a man using a walkie-talkie to relay Canadian troop movements to insurgents.

Still, squelching the stubborn rumours that thrive in the dust of the asymmetrical war is difficult.

You can hear a lot of stories about Canadians being bad guys, the sergeant explained to another teen who expressed similar fears about Canadian soldiers.

I'm not going to tell you take our side -- you're smart, and in the future, you can choose your own side.

The Canadians did receive a warm welcome Wednesday in a small general store filled with a dizzying array of colourful items, from Bazooka chewing gum and other sweet treats to cigarettes, rice, sugar and a poster sporting the faces of those who had died at the hands of the occupying Soviets two decades ago.

Over hot tea, two storekeepers praised the Canadians.

You are a good army -- not like the Afghan National Army because three kids are dead (at their hands), one told Dessureault.

If the Afghan soldiers didn't stop their shooting, they, too, said they would have to leave the area.Dessureault promised to take up their complaint.One of them also said Taliban used the area to stage attacks, but would then run away, adding the insurgents did not live in the village.

The man brought in for questioning was later released after military brass concluded there was insufficient evidence to detain him.

This a part of serving in Afghanistan this type of complaint, adds even more stress on our Troops.

As this is red Friday please show support for our troops. Upcoming Fathers day event hosted by PEI military Families Services.

Nil Sine Labore


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Recent comments

  • Gerry
    June 29, 2010 - 09:50

    Unless you have a loved on who serves in the Canadian military you really can't comprehend the worry of whether you will see them come home not only alive but intact psychologically. God bless all of those who serve. Looking forward to the breakfast and thank you for your constant efforts in bringing our Canadian military to the passive and presumptuous public's attention.