A military veteran who served in Afghanistan shares her thoughts and experiences with local students
A young private who served in Afghanistan shares her thoughts and experiences with the students of her former elementary school in Winnipeg.
I was a 24- year- old private when I served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Upon my return from that deployment in 2010, I wrote a letter for the students of Joseph Teres Elementary School in Winnipeg, which I attended as a child. The school wanted a story from an active soldier to present as part of its Remembrance Day service. I was honoured to provide my thoughts on the role of Canada’s Armed Forces in general, as well as a description of my time in Afghanistan. Recently, my mom suggested that my letter from back then might be of interest to other Canadians, Our Canada readers in particular— so, here it is!
My name is Pte. Caitlin Yacucha and I am a soldier. My job is to set up and talk on radios and many other different pieces of technology. I have been in the military for five years and have travelled all over Canada.
The Canadian military has an important job in Canada. We provide aid for natural disasters, like the floods in Winnipeg or the ice storms in Quebec. It is important to us that Canadians understand what our mission is and that we have their support. That means a lot to soldiers, especially when they are far from home and their families.
I went to Afghanistan from November 2009 to September 2010. That’s ten months, almost one year. When Canadian soldiers go overseas, we are trying to help the people of Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability. We try to help people and children by building schools, medical clinics and roads. We also help to train the Afghan army and police, so they can protect their own country.
I remember when I first arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after more than 15 hours of flying, and it was cold outside! Even though it’s in the desert, there is still winter. We didn’t get any snow though. And it was always really dusty. There was a lot of sand everywhere. When summer came, it started getting hot. Sometimes the temperature was more than 60° Celsius outside! It was definitely a different world over there, and it made soldiers happy to receive letters or packages that had little pieces of home inside. Sometimes our families sent us games or candy!
I was in Afghanistan over Christmas and I even had to work on Christmas morning. It was a great feeling coming in to work and seeing a whole pile of cards and letters from home. And they were from people we didn’t even know! But those letters reminded us of home and that even though we were far away, we hadn’t been forgotten.
We tried to make the best of it though and we were lucky
enough to have a Tim Hortons and a hockey rink on the main camp! We worked with lots of different nationalities too, like Americans, the British and Australians. It was fun making friends with people from other countries.
It wasn’t all fun though. Afghanistan is a theatre of war and there were a lot of times that our camp was attacked by rockets that exploded within our fences. We could always hear guns firing and helicopters and fighter jets screaming through the sky. There were too many times that I stood on parade at the position of attention, my hand raised in salute as fallen soldiers were being carried into an airplane back to Canada or the United States while “Amazing Grace” played in the background.
Remembering the soldiers who fought and died in the world wars, other conflicts and during peacekeeping operations is very important. They helped define what Canada is today and that’s something that we can all be proud of. We can learn a lot from the veterans of these tragedies. Who we must not forget is the new generation of veterans of Afghanistan. Their stories are just as important in the fabric of our nation’s identity and it is our duty as Canadians to remember them and learn from them. There are stories that I will have in my mind for the rest of my life. I am proud to be a Canadian soldier and will continue to carry the torch passed on by those who have fallen before me. For I am a veteran and I will never forget. n
Caitlin’s colleagues gave her a photo CD to take home with her upon completion of her tour. Clockwise from left: a dusty day in Kandahar; soldiers providing medical aid; standing guard.
Top: Caitlin served in Afghanistan with the HQ 6-09 TFK TOC Signallers section—she’s first from the left, upper row. Above: a Canada vs USA ball-hockey game!