Let­ter Home

A mil­i­tary vet­eran who served in Afghanistan shares her thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences with lo­cal stu­dents

Our Canada - - Features - By Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha, Win­nipeg

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!

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